Thursday, September 22, 2011
Normally International Airshow Salinas organizers like it when stunt planes lead the news.
Not this time.
On the heels of the fatal crash that killed 10 at the Reno Air Races a week before its own opening ceremonies, the International Airshow released a statement of condolences – and assurance that air races are much less regulated, and therefore more dangerous, than airshows.
It’s a valid point. There hasn’t been a spectator fatality involving aircraft at a North American airshow since 1952.
South County’s own renowned stunt pilot Sean D. Tucker was friends with the late pilot involved in the wreck, which understandably shook him.
“You question your mortality when you lose a friend,” he says.
But it also reaffirmed his fundamentals. “I fly with humility, leave my ego out and fly like I practice,” he says.
He says he practices as much as often as three times a day “to ensure I do it right every single time.”
To the delight of local fans, he’ll do it this weekend after a few years away. Here’s a look at Tucker’s talents and a rundown of other runway highlights:
Sean D. Tucker’s Oracle Bi-Plane
His red bi-plane shoots straight up at 200 mph before it begins tumbling, seemingly out of control, toward the ground in a spin the Czech call a lomcevak, or headache. Just as the plane looks certain to crash, the propeller spins furiously, keeping the plane’s tail hovering above the tarmac with the nose pointing up to the sky.
Tucker has entertained audiences in airshows around the world since 1976. But he says the last 10 years have confirmed his mastery of “3D” flight, as the Oracle team has customized Tucker’s bi-plane to be more and more an extension of his body. The 400-horsepower engine can push it past the 300 mph mark – and that’s just going forward. The plane can also do a brisk 100 mph – backward.
Canadian Forces Snowbirds
The 431 Squadron that makes up the Snowbirds demo team was first established as a bomber squadron stationed in Scotland during World War II. Recommissioned in 1971 as dazzling diplomats of Canadian aviation, they use Canadian-built CT-114 Tutor jets in stunts like the trademark “Maple Split,” named for the way their contrails mimic the country’s well-known symbol.
Monterey Bay Symphony
In an airshow first, the symphony will play along with the largest fireworks display on the Central Coast.
“We’re always looking for ways to make the experience better,” the airshow’s Bruce Adams says. “This seemed like a natural partnership.” Another natural: MBS has been practicing “The Flight of the Valkyries.”
Tora, Tora, Tora
As the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor approaches, a demonstration of historic proportions will buzz the skies of Salinas. The historic reenactment began in 1972 when six of the planes used in the classic war movie of the same name were given to the Commemorative Air Force.
Pilots flying World War II-era Japanese warbirds will replay the sneak attack with pyrotechnics and play-by-play narration. The show is touted as a 3D museum that aims to keep the memory of the sailors and soldiers lost during the war alive.
Red Bull Air Force, Chuck Aaron and Kirby Chambliss
Skydivers, a famous air racer and a one-of-a-kind helicopter pilot will all perform under the Red Bull banner.
Kirby Chambliss will be on hand flying the Zivko Edge 540 that has won him world renown in the air-racing circuit. But before he made his name in racing, he was a five-time U.S. National Aerobatic Champion and continues to make the rounds at air shows around the country.
“Malibu” Chuck Aaron, meanwhile, isn’t your everyday chopper pilot. He single-handedly pioneered the world of helicopter aerobatics, as the first and only civilian pilot in the U.S. licensed to perform helicopter barrel-rolls, backflips and a routine of craziness you have to see to believe.
Finally, “flying, not falling,” is what the Red Bull Jump Team calls their brand of skydiving.
“We were kinda bored simply falling on our bellies towards Earth,” manager Jon DeVore says, “so we started going vertical instead: head towards Earth; feet towards Earth.”
It rips cars in half, breathes fire and has the ability to shoot missiles. Meet Robosaurus, destructive sideshow of airshows, monster truck jams and, according to owner Brooke Dunn, even bar mitzvahs.
He bought the 31-ton Transformer-inspired monster at an auction; with a 500 horsepower turbo diesel powering four hydraulic pumps that can generate 28,000 pounds of crushing power, Robosaurus was completely custom built by Monster Robots, Inc. over two years for $2.2 million.
INTERNATIONAL AIRSHOW SALINAS happens 4pm Friday, Sept. 23, and 9am Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25, at Salinas Municipal Airport, 20 Mortensen Ave., Salinas. $10, $15, $25, $60. 443-8622.