First day of Pacific Airshow brings high-flying action above Huntington Beach – Orange County Register

The Pacific Airshow roared to a start Friday, Sept. 30, bringing beachgoers to the sand in Huntington Beach for a glimpse of the action in preparation of the main event that gets underway Saturday.

The practice day, which kicked off in overcast skies, allowed pilots to get a feel for the airspace ahead of the next two days of high-flying performances.

In addition to the viewers who filled in the sand throughout the day, boaters dotted the water for a unique vantage point for the ocean-front airshow.

“People love it,” said Newport Coastal Adventure owner Ryan Lawler, who was expecting to be on the water for seven hours Friday with a group of enthusiasts. “We have customers who are both locals and out-of-towners who are coming out with us for the airshow. It gets people excited for events that happen in their hometown, normally you would travel to see an airshow.”

RELATED: Headed to the Pacific Airshow? What to know before you go.

The aerial performers came from near and far to wow the crowds. Among the pilots taking to the sky this weekend is Matt Hall, former top gun fighter pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force and reigning Red Bull Air Race World Champion.

Hall started flying planes as a teen and was in the Australian Air Force for 18 years serving as a fighter combat instructor. When he was going to be switched to a desk job, he decided to take on a new challenge.

“I transitioned to high-performance aerobatics and that led to racing planes,” he said.

For Hall, who flies a Zivko Edge 540 V3, it’s a “three-dimensional freedom” in the sky.

“There’s no roads, no stop signs, no traffic lights. You can go up, down, left and right, down to the water level and then up high,” he said. “It’s just the freedom to go and do whatever you want in these aircrafts.”

The pressure of having all the people below watching his every move doesn’t phase him, he said. “When you’re in the plane, you have no awareness of the crowd. You are just completely focused on doing your job.”

The fun part is also the excitement in the days leading up to the event and doing the autographs for fans afterward.

“Just seeing the enthusiasm of the crowd,” he said. “If I can get a couple young people to want to do this, it’s all been worthwhile.”

For Hall, this is his first Pacific Airshow and his first show in the United States. He’s here to take a look at the event and recruit pilots for a Gold Coast edition expected to launch next year in Australia.

“We see how well this airshow is run and how popular it is, so we know exactly what the standard is,” he said.

Pilot Gregory Colyer, aka “Wired,” also talked about his dreams to be a pilot as a kid. He joined the military, but a knee injury kept him from flying.

He still got his pilot’s license and when he got out of the Army, he wanted to transition into a career as an airline pilot, but the pay was low and getting jobs was tough. So he bought his own plane, first a jet out of Russia for $8,000 and later the T-33 Shooting Star he’s flying in the Pacific Airshow this weekend.

Nobody in his family was a pilot, but flying was all Colyer said he wanted to do. “I had a lot of people tell me I couldn’t do it. If you have a dream and you chase it and you don’t give up, you can achieve it.

“It’s not just about inspiring others to never give up on their dreams, but also honoring history and veterans, the people who served to give us our freedoms.”

His T-33 Shooting Star, which he acquired in 2008, is a crowd favorite. He estimates he does anywhere from 15 to 25 shows a year.

He called the Pacific Airshow one of the greatest in the country, because of the range of performers and variety, everything from World War II planes to skydiving performers.

“You have the stars of the industry here,” he said. “When you’re overflying the show, you can’t see sand, there’s so many people.”

Colyer recently connected with his wingman, Robert Mitchell, who spent years as the head of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. Mitchell flies a similar plane.

Mitchell, who goes by “Scratch,” has been a professional airshow performer for 23 years, though this is his first time at the Pacific Airshow. The duo will be unveiling their two-plane act, flying in formation with one another.

“He leads me around and I hang on,” Mitchell said.

“For dear life,” Colyer said with a chuckle, finishing his partner’s sentence.

President of Lyon Air Museum Mark Foster said the show allows the museum to showcase gems such its B-25 Mitchell bomber used during World War II.

Seeing some of the new, sleek military jets is a larger-than-life experience, but also including the vintage planes is a chance to educate the younger generation about the aircraft of the past. They may even be inspired, Foster said, whether they are into math or engineering or flying the planes – many paths can lead to the sky. First day of Pacific Airshow brings high-flying action above Huntington Beach – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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