By Mary O’KEEFE
In September 1939, the world’s first practical helicopter took flight at Stratford, Connecticut. Designed by Igor Sikorsky, that first tethered flight was over in just a few seconds. The following year, Sikorsky flew his helicopter in a demonstration. He flew backward, sideways and up and down; however, he had not quite worked out how to fly forward. He solved that issue the following year and the helicopter flew at its maximum speed of 60 miles per hour.
Times have changed more than just a little. Now one of the fastest helicopters – a CH-47F Chinook – has been clocked at 315km/h (or about 196 mph).
Though helicopters have always been a fascination when seen in the sky, the military helicopters that flew nightly into American living rooms on the evening news became a symbol of the Vietnam War. But the helicopter was not only an instrument of war; it was also an instrument of rescue, with images shown of Vietnam military men jumping into a Bell UH 1 Huey as it took off from the fields of fighting to a safe, or somewhat safe, base.
About 28 of these amazing flying machines will be on hand at the annual American Heroes Air Show at Hansen Dam Recreation and Sports Complex, 11770 Foothill Blvd., Sylmar, on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The show began in 1993 at the Santa Monica Airport. It was and is exclusively dedicated to helicopters and rotor-winged aircraft, said James D. Paules, volunteer executive producer of American Heroes Aviation Network.
It soon outgrew Santa Monica and in 1996 moved to Hansen Dam.
“It’s a wonderful venue for us,” Paules said.
The event offers a unique opportunity for visitors to not only walk past helicopters from a variety of agencies but people will be allowed to climb into the cockpit of many and speak with the pilots.
And for a few special children this day will be an even more important event, an event that will almost certainly be one of their most memorable.
“This is the first time our Los Angeles office will be partnering with Jim’s team and the air show,” said Claire Nicholson, public affairs officer USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
Thirty kids, up to 18 years old, will take the Citizenship Oath at 10 a.m. on Saturday as part of the air show. The children’s parents have already taken all the required classes and have been sworn in as U.S. citizens.
“We have done the naturalization [ceremony] for adults at our events [in Texas, Florida and Washington state],” Paules said. “I have learned over the years it has always been a wonderful, emotional and impactful ceremony.”
In the adult ceremonies, Paules said, many were surprised to see soldiers being sworn in.
Many don’t realize you don’t have to be a [U.S.] citizen to serve in the U.S. military, Paules said.
On Saturday, though, the focus will be on children and using the background of the air show will add something special to the ceremony, he hoped.
“We’ve talked to the parents [of the participating kids]. It’s a choice to participate, “ Nicholson said. “They are very thrilled to come out and be part of the ceremony.”
In addition to the naturalization ceremony there will be demonstrations and information booths including representatives from the L.A. County Fire Dept., U.S. Coast Guard, L.A. Sheriff’s Dept., CAL FIRE [California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection] and the military. There will also be a number of non-profit organizations at booths including some sponsored by veterans.
At noon there will be a demonstration of hoist rescues used during search and rescues.
“We will have a team in the audio booth so people can listen to [what is going on] during the demonstrations,” he said.
Paules said the air show is not just visually exciting but also educational.
“We can see why these aircraft are so valuable and why these crews are so valuable,” Paules said.
Those looking for a career with law enforcement, fire service and search and rescue will find booths at the event with information. For those who want to take flight, the American Heroes Air Show can make that happen as well.
“There will be helicopter rides [by] Star Helicopters,” Paules said. Tickets are $50 for a six to seven minute loop of the area. To reserve flights people can got to www.heroes-air show.com.
Admission to the air show is free.
“We would like to invite our guests to use our remote parking over by the aquatic center,” Paules added.
There will be a free shuttle from the parking area to the event.