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Air Show Returns With a Roar

After a one-year absence, the annual Point Mugu aviation spectacular thrills 43,000 at Naval Base Ventura County.

September 19, 2004|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

A heavy fog lifted and the roar of military jets filled the air Saturday as 43,000 people gathered on the tarmac at Point Mugu for the naval station's annual air show.

Opening day of the two-day event at the base north of Malibu went off without a hitch, delighting families, aviation buffs and military veterans with its dramatic display of speed, technology and nerves. Even without a big-name precision team -- the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels were booked elsewhere this weekend -- the 40th annual show thrilled.

"It's magnifique!" said Dick Kirkland, 70, of Westlake Village, a Korean War Navy veteran who watched from beneath beach umbrellas with his wife, Jan, and two friends.

"Every year, it gets better and better," he said.

"It brought tears to my eyes," said Kirkland's friend, Herman Stern, 83, of Thousand Oaks, a World War II veteran.

The show was canceled for the first time last year when the base was unable to land either of the military precision teams.

Officials said the cancellation was unrelated to the crash of a QF-4 Phantom in 2002.

The Vietnam-era jet, since decommissioned, crashed into a marsh during a low-flying formation as thousands of spectators watched. The pilot and his navigator died after ejecting. Navy investigators concluded the accident was caused by pilot error.

"That was a rare event," said Capt. Paul Grossgold, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County.

"The show is done safely. It's planned, choreographed and practiced."

While other bases around the country have moved their air shows to civilian airports because of post 9/11 security concerns, Grossgold said he never considered it.

"You can't have a Point Mugu air show somewhere else," he said.

Since the war in Iraq began, residents have shown their support for the 1,000 men and women who work at the base by holding dinners for the military personnel and sales to provide them with personal items.

"This is our way to say thank you," Grossgold said.

"Most days the public can't get on our base. People are excited about airplanes and aviation, especially military aviation, which pushes performance to the limit."

This year the Patriots, a civilian jet team of retired military aviators, took marquee billing, spinning, circling and twirling above the ocean.

Maureen Jones-Borden and her husband, Jeff Chambers, of Oxnard took their four children and various friends and cousins to see the jets, helicopters and cargo planes displayed on the ground.

"The kids like to get a close look at the planes," Jones-Borden said.

"I like all the tricks and somersaults they do," said her son, Jeremy Vaughn, 12, who carried a Game Boy to occupy him during lulls in the action.

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