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AIR SHOW ATTRACTS THOUSANDS OF FANS.

Byline: Rachel Uranga Staff Writer

Thousands of eyes peered into the summer sky as Rob Harrison piloted a 1970s-era aerobatic plane into the heavens, then tumbled toward Earth leaving a ribbon of vapor.

The opening act for Camarillo's two-day air show drew oohs, aahs and furious applause from the civilian crowd. But for hundreds of U.S. military veterans on hand, the dozens of antique aircraft and warplanes brought back memories.

``Oh, it was great. You were free above the clouds, soaring with the sun and birds, you are closer to God,'' said Lowell Steward, 83, as he sat next to several veterans in a hangar filled with World War II memorabilia.

Steward, a Tuskegee Airman who ran bombing campaigns in a P-51 fighter plane over Vienna and Berlin, said he was not necessarily intrigued by the idea of flying.

``I went into the Air Force to prove that black people could fly,'' he said.

The nearly two hundred planes - many restored bombers from World War II to Vietnam - that dotted the Camarillo airport served as a reminder, he said.

``It lets people know what went on in the war. People now don't know what's going on.''

Organizers estimate between 10,000 and 20,000 people from across Southern California will visit the 23rd annual air show, which ends its two-day run today at the Camarillo Airport. Many came to get close to the dozens of fighter jets on display, chat up old friends, watch the show or marvel at home-built planes.

The show, themed ``Century of Aviation, Kitty Hawk to Camarillo,'' celebrated the centennial of the Wright brothers' 13-second flight on Dec. 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, N.C. The historic flight marked the first recorded powered and sustained flight.

``The smell of jet fuel is like perfume,'' said Don ``Big Heart'' Goodin, leaning up against his two-seater L-29 military trainer plane. His aviation habit, which the retired lieutenant colonel developed in the Air Force, isn't cheap, he said, but it's inescapable.

``It's in our blood - it is what we do,'' joked Goodin.

Admission is $8. Children under 12 are free. The gates open at 8 a.m. and the air show runs between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Admission funds will be donated to the Young Eagles - a youth aviation program - to buy fuel for its flights.

Rachel Uranga, (805) 583-7604

rachel.uranga(at)dailynews.com

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4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2) Mercury astronaut Col. Gordon Cooper gets a hug from Lydia Roush, above right, during his appearance at the Camarillo Air Show on Saturday. Mauricio Pena of Palmdale, above left, examines a B-25 bomber during the annual aviation exhibition, which concludes today at Camarillo Airport.

(3 -- 4) Aerobatic pilot Rob Harrison puts his stunt plane through the paces during the air show. Organizers estimate from 10,000 to 20,000 visitors from across the Southland will attend this year's 23rd annual event. Below, the Giardini family of Simi Valley watches one of the aerobatic demonstrations.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 24, 2003
Words:501
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