By Vincent PAGE
On Saturday, America’s premier helicopter-only air show came to town when the American Heroes Air Show landed at Hansen Dam. The event, organized by Jim Paules, volunteer event director, with assistance by Chuck Street, volunteer media chair, took place from 9 a.m to 4 p.m and was free to the public. It provided an inside look – literally – at some of the most impressive helicopters in the air today in addition to giving attendees the chance to talk to pilots and active members of the military.
The event began in 1993 in Santa Barbara under the title American Giants: A Celebration of Heroes. The name change occurred a year later, and attendance to the annual event has grown steadily, now averaging 6,000-10,000 people per year.
The idea for a helicopter-only air show was driven by the lack of focus on the rotary aircraft.
“I grew up going to air shows with my dad, I took my kids to air shows and I love all the cool jets and go-fast displays, but it was always like they had put the helicopter crews and pilots out in the backfield,” Paules said. By bringing the helicopters into the main spotlight, he hoped to be able to pique the interest of the public and possibly encourage some kids to pursue a career in aviation. There is also a vast range of style of helicopter, from military to news to fire choppers. This was made clear to anyone at the event who roamed through the field of 25 helicopters, some coming from as far as Las Vegas to be a part of the show.
“[We want] to educate people on the incredible capabilities and the different ways we depend on helicopters from law enforcement to homeland security to communications and really just [show] the diversity of what this technology can do for us,” Paules said.
The day began in a celebratory manner with a naturalization ceremony where 52 people received citizenship. Family, friends, and guests watched the ceremony with 20 different countries represented. Those granted citizenship ranged in age from 19 to 70 years old. After the newly born citizens recited the Oath of Allegiance, congratulations were extended by the judge and other officials, and the national anthem was sung.
Among those who were sworn in as citizens were six men who had served in four different branches of the military. Michael Magtira, a current Army ranger, was one.
“Being in the Army has been a dream of mine and I’ve wanted to do it even before I came to the states,” said Magtira. “And now receiving my citizenship, it’s a dream come true.”
At the Code 3 career fair guests could explore and learn about jobs in aviation and law enforcement. In the different tents were members of the Golden Retriever search and rescue team, representatives of the various military branches, and police department displays. One could sign a declaration to be drug free, volunteer to help send care packages to U.S. troops and even try on a bulletproof vest and hold a riot shield. Tickets could also be purchased for helicopter rides throughout the day, which was a big hit for many attendees.
It appeared to be another successful year for the American Heroes Air Show, and organizers said that moving forward they plan on expanding the event in the future.