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FLIGHTS OF FANCY, REALITY AT SHOW.

Byline: Krystn Shrieve Staff Writer

CAMARILLO - Art Fiedler was taking photos of an enemy plane he shot down over Romania when another enemy crossed his path. He was short on fuel and, to escape, fired his pistol at the pilot who later bailed out, giving him a second victory.

Fiedler, 77, of Oxnard was one of thousands who attended Saturday's 20th annual air show at the Camarillo Airport featuring World War II-era aircraft.

``I'd always dreamed of being a fighter pilot and was 19 when I volunteered to fight in the war,'' said Fiedler, who retired as a colonel in 1975. ``Once you get into fight mode, you just do what you have to do to shoot the other guy down before he shoots you. It's not until later, when you're laying in your bunk, that you feel the fear.''

Fiedler was named an ace pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War II after shooting down eight enemy planes - three more than what was needed to gain that title.

``I would have thrown a rock at the guy if I'd had one,'' said Fiedler, remembering back to his second victory on June 24, 1944, when he had to resort to shooting an enemy pilot with his .45-caliber pistol.

The air show, which continues today, is expected to draw somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 visitors.

Eight-year-old Marcus Mendoza of Camarillo said one day he hopes to be a pilot.

``I've seen the tank and the helicopter,'' he said over the roar of the engines. ``I can't wait to see the airplanes. Maybe one day I can fly, too. Then I'd be able to see everything from the sky.''

Taylor Caldwell of Ventura has been attending the air show on and off for nearly two decades.

For him, the most exciting part is seeing the experimental aircraft that people build in their garages, basements or hangars.

Caldwell, who said he had wanted to fly ever since he was a boy, had the chance to fly an ultralight aircraft in 1982.

``It was a frightening thing,'' said Caldwell, 50. ``It's like sitting in a lawn chair and flying. But eventually I learned to love it.''

The sky was filled with planes like the P-51 Mustang fighter - the type Fiedler flew. Other ``war birds'' that filled the skies included the TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, F4U Corsair fighter, the Hawker Scafury fighter, A-26 Invader bomber and the Trojan T-28 trainer.

``There are so few of these planes left,'' said air boss Norm Hall, who ran the show. ``People come because they love the smoke and the thunder of these big irons, and they bring back memories for a lot of the old folks.''

Camarillo resident Robin Nadon, whose husband is a helicopter pilot for the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, has been coming to the air show for years.

``The old planes are so beautiful to see,'' Nadon said as she sat in a lawn chair under the wing of a plane her husband built. ``We don't ever want to forget their history.''

< The 20th annual Air Show

Time: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Flight time: 2 to 4 p.m.

When: Today.

Where: Camarillo Airport, 455 Aviation Drive.

Parking: Free on the airport grounds.

Cost: Tickets are $5 for adults and free for children under 12.

Pancake breakfast is between $3 and $5. Tours of the museum are $3.

CAPTION(S):

4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) World War II airplane lovers, above, survey a North American P-51 Mustang at the Camarillo air show on Saturday. At left, Leonard Zerlin, a turret gunner in WWII, shares his story with a listener at the show.

(3) Atikin Mason, 5, accompanied by his father and grandfather, looks into a plane's bomb bomb.

(4) A replica of a Ford Tri-Motor Bushmaster 5000 passenger plane captures a watcher's attention during Saturday's air show.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 3, 2000
Words:657
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