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Clouds Ground Blue Angels

Flying: Most at the Point Mugu show rose above their disappointment and delighted in other performers. Better visibility is expected today.

October 06, 1996|LORENZA MUN~OZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Socked in by clouds and foggy weather, the famed Blue Angels were unable to show off their high-flying maneuvers Saturday on the first day of the 1996 Point Mugu Air Show.

But even though most of the 54,000 spectators--half the number organizers expected--were eager to catch a glimpse of the high-speed "Blues," many took the disappointment in stride.

"They have to do what's right," said 18-year-old Matthew Iwaskow of Camarillo, who has seen the Angels perform before at Point Mugu. "If they risk their lives just to please the crowd, then that is not right."

Organizers hope the elite team will get to fly today. The forecast calls for low clouds and dense fog in the morning, with improving visibility in the afternoon.

Five years ago, the Blue Angels also were hampered by bad weather and had to cancel one of their performances.

For those who had never seen their high-flying aerobatics, not seeing the Blues fly was harder to swallow.

"I was really disappointed," said 13-year-old Matthew Jones of Woodland Hills. "I was really looking forward to them."

The Blue Angels and their crew also regretted the show's cancellation.

"This is what we do and we enjoy doing it," said Petty Officer Rick Boswell, who is not a pilot but is a member of the crew operation for the Blue Angels. "We like to see the faces in the crowd. People adore the Blue Angels."

The Blue Angels needed about 5,000-foot visibility to fly safely, but Saturday's skies offered only about 120 feet, said Boswell.

Despite the letdown, the show's other fliers were able to show off their stuff--to a point.

Pilot Steve Stavrakakis got lucky when the low clouds and fog began to burn off by midafternoon on the eastern end of the runway, allowing him to do some of his vertical stunt maneuvers in his plane, called "Wild Thing."

Stavrakakis flew about 1,000 feet up in the air, then spiraled downward as fans on the clear end of the tarmac oohed and aahed.

"Right in the middle of my routine, it turned blue," said Stavrakakis, who has been flying at shows for 11 years. "A little blue is better than no blue."

Spectators sitting on the western end, however, had to make do with low-flying horizontal stunts.

When the military's F-14 Tomcats and the Navy Seals showed off their flying and combat techniques, some spectators were in awe.

"It made me really proud of our military," said Grazyna Gasiorowska of Camarillo.

Once the Seals--one of the military's most elite units--had finished their combat exercise display, they were surrounded by dozens of youngsters eagerly asking how they could join up.

Never mind about the Blue Angels, one young man said, he was here to talk to some Seals.

"The visibility is hard here," said 22-year-old Geoff Goulding of Agoura. "My main concern was the Seals. I got to see them, so I'm not disappointed."

In addition to the aerobatics, stunts and military jet flying, spectators enjoyed several ground displays, such as one chronicling the base's history. Other displays included a tribute to the Tuskegee airmen, the nation's first black Army Air Corps unit, who flew more than 1,500 missions during World War II and never had a plane shot down by the enemy.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of their disbandment, which occurred a year after World War II came to an end.

By the end of the show, spectators were not too upset by the Blue Angels' cancellation.

"This is still a yearly thing for us," said Alan Klein, a Santa Clarita resident who rose at 5 a.m. with his two sons to arrive at the gate by 8 a.m.

"This show was not as good because of the weather, but there is always something interesting. You make do with what you've got."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Air Show Schedule

Free general admission; reserved seating $5 to $35. Weather conditions: Low clouds and dense fog in the morning, with improving visibility in the afternoon to the three- to five-mile range and temperatures in the lower to mid-70s.

MORNING

8:00: Gates open

9:30: Rob Harrison's Zlin 50LS

9:45: Mini-Max demonstration

10:00: Bill Cornick aerobatics

10:20: Black Sheep Show Team

10:40: Smoke-N-Thunder

10:50: Confederate Air Force fly-bys

11:30: Welcoming ceremonies, invocation, naval weapons test squadron Point Mugu fly-by, missing man formation, flag presentation by SEALS.

11:40: John Collver

11:55: Naval Weapons Test Squadron Point Mugu fly-by

AFTERNOON

12:10: Joann Osterud in the Budweiser Ultimate

12:25: Gee Bee

12:45: F-117 takeoff

12:50: Frank Ryder

1:00: VX-9 bombing and strafing demo

1:20: Channel Islands Air National Guard C-130E

1:30: Don Johnson's Toyota Corolla demonstration

1:45: HCS-5 sneak attack

1:58: F-117 return

2:00: Sean Tucker 1-800-COLLECT

2:15: John Pigott's Sukhoi

2:30: Longs Drugs Wild Thing

2:45: Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Car

2:50: Blue Angel C-130 Fat Albert JATO demonstration

3:05: U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team, Blue Angels

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