By Mary O’KEEFE
It was all about helicopters and heroes at Hansen Dam Recreation and Sports Complex last weekend.
The 2012 American Heroes Air Show, “Courage At The Speed of Flight,” filled the Hansen Dam Recreation and Sports Complex on Saturday with helicopters from military, rescue and law enforcement.
There were booths that highlighted several law enforcement agencies including ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) that had a display of items recovered from various suspects, including explosives and grenades.
There were several military agencies represented at the show as well as those who support the military. “Thanks-A-Bunch” organization has been up and running for over year and in that time has been able to give 13,000 gift cards to veterans. For a donation of $10 to the organization, the purchaser receives a gift card worth $50 with a message that reads, “Thanks for your service and sacrifice, may I help buy you lunch or dinner?” The card is good at over 18,000 restaurants across America. Those who want to donate can either allow the organization to distribute the card or can take the card and hand it to a veteran himself or herself. For information, visit www.thanksabunch.org or contact (888) 684-8412.
But the real draw of the day was the helicopters. Kids and adults got an unprecedented chance to crawl in and out of helicopters, to sit in the pilot’s seat and in some cases be strapped into a harness as if to rappel.
Keeping up with 4-year-old Charlie Gomez was an exhausting effort for grandfather Tom Mole.
“He has been having a ball,” Mole said.
This was the first time Mole and his grandson had been at the air show.
“[Charlie] wasn’t sure if he was going to like it, but I told him if he didn’t we could go to the beach,” Mole said. “But we have been here for hours. He has been crawling into every helicopter.”
In addition to crawling into stationary helicopters, there was also a chance to take a ride in a helicopter over the dam. This was a popular event judging by the lines that began when the gates opened and continued after the booths had closed down.
The event has grown since it began at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying in 1993. It moved to Hansen Dam in 1996.
“The event has grown over the years in a number of different ways,” said James Paules, volunteer event director for Los Angeles.
The event has added the L.A. Code Three Career Fair where agencies like the FBI have a recruiting booth.
“And we have more aircraft that participate,” he added.
The aircraft are exciting but the crews are what really make the event special, he added.
“The crews have some great stories to talk about and [they] are so proud of what they do,” Paules said.
It is especially gratifying for Paules that these aircrew members get a chance to share their stories, and their jobs, with the public.
“They really are the unsung heroes in so many ways,” he said.
The American Heroes Air Show has grown in popularity and those from outside of California who have attended the Hansen Dam event have contacted Paules to help set up their own air show. He now is the executive producer not only for the Los Angeles show but also for shows from coast to coast.
For information on the show, visit www.heroes-airshow.com.