Monday, August 17, 2009

Wings Over Wine Country Air Show 2009 - Fun Displays

Wings Over Wine Country Air Show on its second day - see previous blog - was also about highly skilled and entertaining displays of a different genre - see previous blog

The crowd held their breath as a 'very diminutive young lady' performed a headstand and kicked her legs - on top of a bright red and yellow plane in the air and with not even a lapbelt to hold her in place.

Teresa Stokes, a top wingwalker, flew with 'no safety wires, no ropes, no chains, no nothing!' She started with a lap belt, but removed it for the last few stunts, leaving her to hang on to a pole known as 'the javelin' as the plane turned upside down.

Acrobatic pilot, Gene Soucy, in his Showcat teamed with her for a stunning wingwalking act and also in the show gave a solo display.

Teresa, when she's not climbing onto the top of planes, is an aviation artist who has had two of her paintings exhibited in space on the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Another great acrobatics pilot was Greg Poe. He likens one of his stunts where he stands his plane on end and lets it slide downwards, to 'balancing a chair on one leg on one finger!'

Canadians Team Rocket performed as a duo, flipping their wings as they passed and looping over and around each other, leaving smoke patterns in the sky. They also did a routine with 'intruder' hang glider pilot, Dan Buchanan, cutting the ribbons from his glider. Dan, who entertained with live commentary during the mock contretemps, is a paraplegic hang glider from Nevada.

And model aircraft at the hands of experienced fliers added their own spin to acrobatics.

Drama arrived with 'Henry 1', the Sonoma County Sheriff's search and rescue helicopter. First, with one member of the SWAT team dangling on the end of a 100 ft rope, they demonstrated a precision rescue in an inaccessible place, harnessing and lifting someone off the top of a fire ladder. This done with just the pilot at the controls and no second person in the chopper to help guide.

Helicopters like this are used in the commercial world for logging or lifting heavy things onto buildings.

Next, Henry 1 returned with six members of the SWAT team hanging onto the rope. Their mission: to rescue a hostage on a school bus. Amid thick plumes of black smoke, they succeeded!

A timely demonstration, given the wildfire at Santa Cruz, was given by two firefighting planes. They showed how the planes work in pairs, the first one laying down a smoke trail to show the one following where to release the fire retardent.

It was a great show with a lot of variety and opportunity to see many old planes, including helicopters and Coast Guard seaplanes, and the chance to sit in quite a few cockpits. And you could also buy a luxury seven-seater jet or sit in an Indy car from the Infineon Raceway.

Not only were there veteran planes, however. One visitor for whom the show brought back memories was former paratrooper, 83-year-old Don Clouston.

Don jumped into Normandy on D-Day with the 101st Airborne Division. When the division was disbanded after the war, he saw later service in Korea with the 187th Airborne Division. His plane, a C-47, wasn't there, but an earlier DC-3 civilian version was.

Then 'I was young, dumb and gung-ho! I'd have to think a lot before I did it again,' he said. 'When you're young, you don't think you're going to die. I lost a lot of my buddies, but somehow I survived, I don't know how.'

pics by Chris

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