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Point Mugu Air Show Canceled

The decision is made after organizers were unable to book an acrobatic flying team.

April 13, 2006|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

The Point Mugu Air Show -- plagued recently by inclement weather, scheduling issues and a deadly crash four years ago -- has been canceled once again, the second time since 2003.

The event, used as an open house and a recruitment tool for the military, was scheduled for Oct. 7-8. But when an acrobatic flying team could not be lined up, the organizers decided to ground the show.

The air show has been held 41 times since 1963 and has drawn crowds of up to 275,000. But last year, when foul weather grounded the famed Navy Blue Angels acrobatic flying team, attendance dropped to about 80,000, said Teri Reid, spokeswoman for Naval Base Ventura County.

"We were fairly sure we were going to get the Thunderbirds or one of the other military jet teams" this year, Reid said Wednesday. "When they finally said they couldn't do it, it was too late" to schedule another stunt pilot show, she said.

The U.S. Air Force's Blue Angels and the Snowbirds of the Canadian Air Force were unavailable, Reid said. The Patriots, a civilian stunt plane squad, performed in 2004 but were not considered this year, in part because its performance fee is $25,000 plus expenses.

"We just don't have that kind of money," said Don Hems, the Point Mugu Air Show's civilian coordinator.

Organizers were "very flexible," Hems said, offering to reschedule the air show during several weekends this spring and fall, but were not able to line up another stunt group.

Instead, base officials plan to concentrate on another public event: the 20th annual Seabee Days, scheduled for June 24-25, which will feature a car show and a triathlon. Point Mugu Naval Air Station, off Pacific Coast Highway between Oxnard and Malibu, is part of Naval Base Ventura County. The base includes the Naval Construction Battalion Center, or Seabee base, in Port Hueneme.

Hems said the Point Mugu Air Show costs about $125,000 to stage. Admission and parking are free to the public, so organizers recoup their costs by selling premium seating, and leasing space for booths that sell food, drinks and souvenirs.

The booths are staffed by volunteers from local charities, and every year the show returns tens of thousands of dollars to the community along with generating money for the base's morale, welfare and recreation program that benefits service members and their families.

The popular air show has run into recurring difficulties over the last seven years. No military acrobatic jets were available in 2000, and poor weather grounded the Thunderbirds in April of the following year.

Pilot error was blamed for the crash of a Vietnam-era QF-4 Phantom in 2002 that killed a Navy and a Marine pilot. Scheduling problems led to event's first cancellation in 2003.

The Patriots performed in 2004, but uncooperative weather grounded the stunt flights again in 2005.

"We have not had a complete show with a military jet team since 1999," Reid said.

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