Thursday, September 13, 2001
Tucker returns with the excitement and enthusiasm of a kid who''s back to play before his hometown crowd. Having won the Championship Air Show Pilots Association (CASPA) Challenge for the fourth straight year this past July, he also brings the very best that the world of aerobatics has to offer.
"Ever since I was a kid, I was enchanted with this notion of flight," Tucker said in an interview this week. Tucker started to fly in 1969, but it wasn''t until he took an aerobatics course from Amelia Reid in San Jose that he finally broke free of his early inhibitions. And, boy, does he express himself now.
Nearly ten million spectators a year from more than 20 different air shows spanning North America thrill to the sight of Tucker in his state-of-the-art, aerobatic biplane as its wing-tips sweep across the sky with the control of an artist. Each of his works consist of just one long and continuous stroke that arcs gracefully then whips back the other direction, spins, rolls, and loops. Tucker uses speed as his pigment--red hot in a 300mph plunge to the ground all the way to a 15mph cool blue near-hover over the runway.
"When you have an opportunity to touch a million people, whether or not they think you''re wild and crazy or whether or not they think you''re a very skilled aviator--if you''ve touched them and provoked emotion--you''ve created art. That''s what it''s all about," Tucker says. "My canvas is big--5,000 feet high and 5,000 feet wide."
His repertoire includes astounding maneuvers such as the Double Hammerhead, Centrifuge, Harrier Pass, and Triple Ribbon Cut. "The one I like best is the Torque Roll," Tucker says, describing the maneuver as flying straight down to the ground, tail first, at 100 miles per hour while spinning.
Tucker feels that the intimacy, variety, and quality of all the performers at the Salinas Airshow make it one of the best in the world. "It''s a great family entertainment event."
At the Salinas Airshow, the audience not only gets to see incredible pilots like Tucker in the air but they get to hear the pilots as they fly their routines. With the help of air announcers, the audience can feel as though they are along for the ride.
"Part of the Airshow is not just great flying, but it''s performance," says Jim Vanderzwaan, the perennial "voice of the sky" who has announced at the Airshow since 1983 and has also served as the director of flight operations during the previous four years.
"We try to make as much variety in the acts as possible. This variety helps the Airshow reach out to those who may not be very familiar with the sport of aviation.
"We''ve got the jet teams that are loud and noisy and impressive, hot aerobatic planes that really make a lot of noise and do amazing maneuvers, skydivers and sailplanes that are much slower and graceful--jet trucks, monster trucks, and Robosaurus."
Spectators can get up and close to dozens of vintage and classic aircraft. Other attractions include a children''s area, concession stands, military vehicles, and plenty of locations filled with aviation memorabilia.
And the audience does not have to worry about the flight being delayed or cancelled.
Folks in the air show industry recognize the Salinas Airshow as the leader. Planning and organizing for the event begins once the last one ends.
"We have about 1,200 volunteers that come together to make this possible," says Cindy Rogers, marketing coordinator, enjoying her 21st year as a volunteer, "and if it weren''t for the support of the community and sponsors then it would never have happened."
The Salinas Airshow does more than just excite and entertain the community. More than $5.3 million has been given back to more than 200 charities and community organizations like the Alliance on Aging, the Boys & Girls Club, and the Women''s Crisis Center.
Whether it''s the razzle dazzle of aerobatics, the pulse-pounding adrenaline rush of the jet aircraft, or the tremendous number of attractions on the ground, the air festival promises to provide an unforgettable day.
The 2001 California International Airshow at the Salinas Municipal Airport is still scheduled to go on; however there will be no military presence. Gate opens at 4pm Friday and at 9am on Saturday and Sunday. Advanced single-day tickets (add $3 for gate prices): general admission is $12/adult, $9/child (6-12), and free for children under 6; grandstand seating is $15/adult, $12/child (6-12), and free for children under 6; and box seats are available. For more information call 831-754-1983 or visit www.salinasairshow.com