By Chuck Weirauch
Hoping to beat the stigma of an air show that lost money in its first year, the Rotary Club of Orlando held its second annual event with more sponsors and a wider variety of performers November 5-6 at Orlando Executive Airport.
The Great Orlando Rotary Air Show was conceived last year by Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In air show organizer Pat Phillips, who is a Rotarian and lives in the Orlando area. He put together the show again this year as event director with the help of volunteers from the Orlando Rotary Club. Despite the financial problems last year, Phillips was confident that the 2005 event would accomplish its attendance and revenue goals.
Last year’s show was an attempt to raise money for the organization’s efforts to eliminate polio throughout the world. The 2005 event was put together to raise funds for the Central Florida Performing Arts Center. Dan Curry, Rotary Air Show chairman, said the organization had “learned lessons” from the 2004 show and provided more sponsors and advance publicity this year. He hopes that the event will eventually draw more than 30,000 attendees while serving as the primary annual fundraising event for his organization.
Eric Beard in his “Russian Thunder” Yak 54 and Gene McNeely in his AeroShell Aerobatic Team AT-6 Texan were the show’s top attractions. Other aerial performers included Elgin Wells in a Super Decathlon, Dick McGlashon and Kent Krauser in their Sanford Aerobatic Team Pitts, along with Bud Walker in his Pitts.
Warbirds were another top show attraction, with Walt Orth and Sam Lauf leading four-ship flights of T-6s and T-28s. However, the featured flying warbird was Tom Reilly’s B-25 Mitchell twin-engine bomber “Killer B.” He operates Tom Reilly’s Flying Tigers Warbird Restoration Museum in Kissimmee.