By Fred “Crash” Blechman
In response to a lot of advance publicity, and the cooperation of a cool day, on June 11, between 65,000 and 70,000 people attended the free Van Nuys Airport’s Rockin’ AirFest 2006. Held on the former site of the Air National Guard at the west side of the airport, people streamed in on shuttle busses from two remote parking lots, or walked in from parking on the streets in the immediate area.
A collection of rare historic aircraft from world-famous flying museums was on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event showcased the City of Los Angeles’ first-ever flyover by the advanced F-22 Raptor, the world’s only fifth-generation fighter jet. Live band performances, aerial demonstrations, airfield tours and ground attractions highlighted the event celebrating aviation’s living history. The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales were also on display.
Under a solid gray overcast with a comfortable temperature of about 70 degrees, the event began at 9:15 a.m. with a formation flyover, break-off and landings of six SNJ/AT-6 WWII advanced trainers from the Condor Squadron based at Van Nuys Airport. A Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter made a flyover, and despite the heavy cloud layer, at about 3,500 feet, the Misty Blues All Woman Skydiving Team, whose members hold 34 world records, launched the AirFest 2006 opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. with a patriotic American flag jump.
“It’s an honor to host such a magnificent display of air power that shaped history during the last half-century,” said Van Nuys Airport Manager Selena Birk. “Rockin’ AirFest 2006 offers Los Angeles residents a unique opportunity to honor these legendary aircraft and pay tribute to the pioneering men and women who built, serviced and flew them.”
Fifty-two exhibitors, four novelty vendors and seven food vendors (including Carl’s Jr., McDonald’s and the Space Shuttle Café) were busy all day, some with very long lines. Lines also formed at aircraft that offered tours, free or for a small donation, and for the free airfield bus tours. Entire families were well represented with strollers and many children.
Making its first public appearance in the skies above Los Angeles, at about 1:15 p.m., the F-22 Raptor made three passes over the runway—once with the landing gear down—before roaring off into the gray skies. Helicopters were flying throughout the day, with the sky clearing in the early afternoon. At about 3:30 p.m., a U.S. Navy Legacy Flight featured a modern F/A-18 Hornet flying in close formation with a classic FG-1D Corsair, followed by a Misty Blues afternoon sky-diving performance.
More than 50 restored former military combat and civilian aircraft were exhibited, including the only flying Curtiss SB2C Helldiver and Tuskegee Airmen AT-6 in the world. Two World War Il-era B-25J Mitchell bombers, made famous by Gen. Doolittle’s historic Tokyo Raid following the attack on Pearl Harbor, were on display. Many aircraft from the Southern California wing of the Commemorative Air Force flew in from its Camarillo Airport WWII Museum. Planes of Fame, at Chino Airport, also had many of its historic aircraft flown in for static display.
A large tent and stage were used for the opening ceremonies, and later, to showcase four non-stop live band performances. Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries, a high-voltage 1950s/60s rock and roll band, has performed at world-class venues throughout North America, Europe and Mexico. Klass I performed the hit sounds of Motown, while the Jay Bolan Band played classic and contemporary rock, and Sol de Alegria provided a unique blend of Latin guitar and rumba flamenco music.