Flights of fancy soar at Miramar

Aerial maneuvers delight enthusiasts at annual air show

By Chris Moran

October 19, 2003

San Diego County paid annual homage to its aviation culture by turning out by the hundreds of thousands to watch flying machines smoke, thunder and speed their way across clear skies over Marine Corps Air Station Miramar yesterday.

The throng at this year's Miramar Air Show turned the tarmac into a concrete beach covered by towels, umbrellas, picnic spreads and fold-up chairs. Aviation enthusiasts gulped drinks, smeared on sunscreen and craned their necks to watch one airplane after another make passes, sometimes with gravity-defying acrobatics and at other times with speeds that outran sound. About 50,000 spectators attended Friday, and about 200,000 came out yesterday for the sights and a twilight show that was the highlight of the weekend.

The evening's festivities were interrupted briefly when a false security threat was announced over the public address system about 7:30 p.m.

The threat condition at the base momentarily increased, and military personnel were ordered to report to their units. Spectators were not evacuated, and people remained calm, witnesses said.

"It was a mistake," Lt. John Niemann said last night. "We don't know the reason yet."

This year's Miramar Air Show theme is "Kitty Hawk to Miramar: 100 Years of Flight," with the big stars being the Blue Angels and other modern military planes.

San Diego produced the Spirit of St. Louis, built fighter planes for World War II and hosted the Top Gun school for many years. Air show attendees brought their own histories and connections to aviation with them.

Patrick Locke of Chula Vista has been an aviation enthusiast for decades. He came to see everything yesterday, but he has a special fondness for the F-4 Phantom, which helped protect him while he served as a soldier in Vietnam.

His father had discouraged him from becoming a pilot, and it wasn't until a few years ago that he found out why. His father had shot down a German fighter plane over Northern Africa during World War II.

Standing on a stool to see over the crowds, Locke said, "I don't get tired of these things. I could go every week."

Amanda Chastain and Chris Phillips of Clairemont Mesa have been coming to the show since they were children. Chastain said the show is fascinating every year but this year takes on added meaning because of the war in Iraq.

"I think it's special because you get to see the men and women who fought for our country," Chastain said.

"Plus you get to say, 'Thank you,' in a way," Phillips said.

Arthur Medrano developed his fascination for planes during his childhood while his father worked for General Dynamics. He brought his wife, Heidi, and son Mason yesterday, and they said the show was an excuse to get out of Los Angeles and a look at how their taxpayer dollars were being spent.

Bernard Zee left his Fremont home Friday night to get to the show yesterday morning.

"The sound has a lot to do with it," he said. "I like noise."

The three-day show ends today with events from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission and parking is free. The event's Web site has more information at

Staff writer Brian Hazle contributed to this report.
Chris Moran: (619) 498-6637;