Planes, flames and automobile

Olympic Air show: Annual event draws thousands with some old, some new — and an air-land battle

rboone@theolympian.comJune 18, 2012 

The 14th annual Olympic Air Show was another strong event, with some familiar planes from past shows, but also some new entries, including a land-based vehicle with a jet engine that provided a show-stopping moment for the thousands in attendance.

Once again, about 8,000 to 10,000 people attended Saturday and Sunday’s air show, and hundreds more lined Old Highway 99 to watch from the back of their pick-ups or from folding chairs next to their cars. The weather also largely behaved, with rain limiting some performances late Saturday.

Sunday’s weather was mostly overcast and windy.

The Olympic Air Show at Olympia Regional Airport has come a long way since its first year, growing from about 2,000 visitors to more than 10,000 for the entire weekend and the number of aircraft to about 40 from a dozen, said Teri Thorning, executive director of the Olympic Flight Museum and coordinator of the air show.

The air show brings back some familiar aircraft every year, but it also tries to do something new each year, too, she said. Among the new entries was a glider and a jet car that looked like an elongated dragster with an engine powerful enough to shoot out flames and create a sound similar to a sonic boom.

The jet car was entered in a race with three planes.

Once the planes were directly overhead, the race started. The driver of the jet car hit the afterburner and it shot down the runway, the race announcer declaring it the winner. Thorning said its top speed approaches 400 miles per hour.

Two planes did not make it to the show this year: a B-17 had engine problems and stopped in Medford, Ore., for repairs, and a B-25, scheduled to make a flyover during the show, never left Everett’s Paine Field because of poor weather, Thorning said.

Still, plenty of familiar faces and planes made it to the show.

Mike Jones, 65, of Oak Harbor, a former Navy and commercial airline pilot, returned for his second show with his CJ-6, a plane built for China’s military. It has a top speed of 210 miles per hour and about 300 have been imported to the U.S. since the early 1960s, he said.

“This is a good show,” said Jones, who last appeared in the Olympic Air Show in 2010.

Pilot and plane owner Bob Fitzgerald of Lacey was back again with his Navion 805Z, built in December 1948. Not only was he showing the plane, he also was trying to sell it.

Fitzgerald has owned the plane since 1979, but he’s now 63 and looking forward to more boating and fishing, he said. He described the plane as a poor man’s P-51 Mustang that is a “fun, all around airplane.”

Fitzgerald said he flew the plane all over the western United States and Canada. It seats four passengers, or two people can fly it and have more room for luggage, he said.

Although the plane has some easy-going characteristics, it’s not for everyone, he said.

“It’s not for someone learning to fly,” Fitzgerald said.

on the net

 • For a photo gallery of Sunday’s Olympic Air Show, go to 360-754-5403 @rolf_boone

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