There might not be any U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds or Marine Corp’s Blue Angels at this weekend’s Fort Lauderdale Air Show due to sequestration, but organizers say there will be plenty to thrill those who love dangerous air stunts and exciting displays.
The Black Diamond jets, a team of four L-39 jets in Arctic camouflage, will headline the show with their close formation flight, loops and rolls.
“They will do all kinds of precision maneuvers, similar to what you would see a military jet demonstration team do,” said Fort Lauderdale Air Show President Bryan Lilley.
The show also offers fans the chance to see the Spanish Air Force’s elite parachute demonstration team, the Patrulla Acrobática Paracaidista del Ejército del Aire. This weekend’s performance in the skies over Fort Lauderdale Beach will be the Spanish team’s only show in the United States this decade. The team’s appearance complements Viva Florida 500 — the celebration honoring Juan Ponce de León's arrival on Florida’s east coast.
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“We are honored the Spanish Air Force has chosen the Lauderdale Air Show as the event for them to commemorate Viva Florida 500,” said Lilley. “I mean, for them to come over here and fly 6,000 miles, and they’re just coming for this air show and then they’re going back on Monday.”
Another top-notch civilian act, said Lilley, is the Red Bull helicopter, the only civilian aerobatic helicopter in the country. Pilot Chuck Aaron is the only helicopter pilot licensed to perform helicopter aerobatics in the United States and just one of three with the permission to do these dangerous maneuvers internationally.
The Lucas Oil Parachute Team, put together by Mike Wiskus, will be jumping out of a plane and releasing two white parachutes and a third large U.S. flag. The parachuters made the 30-hour drive from Minnesota — some of it in the snow — to perform in South Florida.
“This team is a 2012 national champion parachute team,” said Wiskus. “We try to push the team to the end of the envelope. In fact, we’ve even seen over the end of the envelope.”
The GEICO Skytypers, consisting of six World War II era planes, will be writing giant messages in the sky and performing a low-level precision formation.
Airhogs Stunt Plane will be piloted by Jason Newburg. “We think fans will get a real kick out of seeing Jason in the Sky Stunt doing its loops, corkscrews and stalls above Fort Lauderdale,” said Shawn Chance, director of marketing for Air Hogs.
Other acts include a P-51 Mustang and T-33 Jet Demonstration. A Goodyear blimp will also drift by.
One difference fans might notice this year is an increase in security, following the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
“Security for our attendees has been part of our planning process since day one and we are working with law enforcement to continue to ensure a safe and enjoyable event for attendees,” said Brad Swezey, Florida Air Show spokesman.
Organizers said they are donating $10 from each ticket sold for the show to a charity that will directly benefit the victims of the Boston bombings.
Although the U.S. military had to cut back on appearances at air shows around the nation because of sequestration, Lilley is proud of the civilian show he’s pulled together.
“The Fort Lauderdale Air Show is one of the only remaining shows that is going to take place in Florida this year, so it is going to be one of very few opportunities to go and enjoy an air show.”