The 27th annual Oregon International Air Show kicked off a full weekend of airborne entertainment Sept. 19. The three-day show enjoyed excellent weather, and highly skilled pilots and parachutists kept the crowd looking skyward to catch the fast and furious action. Approximately 81,000 people attended the show, easily topping last years crowd of 68,000.
The attendance was one of the best in a few years, said Steve Callaway, board director with the Oregon International Air Show.
One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was the Heritage Flight – an aerial formation that featured four iconic aircraft: Two P-51 Mustangs from World War II, an F-86 Sabre jet from the Korean War and the sleek, modern F-22, all flying together in a tight formation.
The U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight represents 65 years of air power, said the announcer, Rob Reider, who kept the crowd informed and entertained with his narration throughout the weekend events.
Before the 2014 air show even concluded, however, the 2015 air show was already making a splash as organizers announced that the popular U.S. Navy Blue Angels precision flying team would be in Hillsboro for next years event, which is scheduled for July 17-19. The Blue Angels have not performed in Hillsboro since 2007.
In another major development, Judy Willey, who has served as president of the air show since 2004, announced she will be stepping aside this fall.
More than two years ago, I let the board of directors know I was looking forward to retiring, and we began the process of finding the right person to mentor, Willey said Monday. Im retiring just because Im ready to retire. I love this business and Im going to miss it, but you just know when its time to step back. Its time for new blood and new ideas to keep the air show moving the way it should go. I will value this always, but Im looking forward to slowing down.
Willey has been directly involved with the air show since 1991, when she became coordinator of the volunteers.
There comes a time to say this is the right time to leave, and you couldnt ask for a better air show to go out with, Callaway said. Judy leaves huge, huge shoes to fill.
Bill Braack, who has been serving as director of operations of the air show for the past two years, will take over as president upon Willeys departure Nov. 7.
Braack, who lives in Camas, Wash., used to fly C-130 cargo planes for the Air Force and has been an air show performer.
He has a military background and has been a performer with the Smoke & Thunder jet car, Callaway added. Were very fortunate to have someone of his caliber. He has a lot of great experience from both sides of an air show.
Hell do a great job and hell be a great fit, Willey said.