Organizers billed it, simply, as the best show yet and, according to Air Fiesta Chairman David Hughston, that fanfare was deserved.
With day one of the two-day show in the books Saturday, Hughston said he was pleased with the turnout and the weather, but he was most blown away by the performances.
“Everybody did such a wonderful job,” he said, noting that whereas at most shows there is one headlining act, this year’s Fiesta arguably has three.
The second and final Air Fiesta show begins today at noon at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.
Considering aerobatic performers Kyle Franklin and Matt Younkin and the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, plus a host of vintage aircraft, Hughston pointed out that this year’s show boasted more than three hours of nonstop aerial pageantry.
Hundreds of attendees passed through the Commemorative Air Force Museum during the afternoon and took in the show while meeting pilots and posing for photos with aircraft.
For the Canales family, Air Fiesta has been a fixture in two generations of childhoods.
Ricky and his wife, Debra, attended the show as children and now take their children, Ricky Jr., 11, and Sophia, 7, every chance they have.
“We try to come every year,” Ricky said.
His son loves airplanes, especially military airplanes, he said, and can identify most aircraft in the sky.
Still, the aircraft aficionado said his favorite part of the show was the same as his sister’s.
“The tricks,” she said. “They go so fast.”
Debra said the show each year is a chance to do something together and suggested that every family should attend, if for no other reason than to have an excuse to hang out as a family.
“It’s a chance to get the family together,” Ricky said.
The connection to history is important for the Canales, too, Debra said, as her grandfather was a mechanic during World War II.
Being able to see planes similar to those he would have worked on is a treat, she said, and allows the children to get a better grip on history.
The show also gives a chance to highlight aircraft as a hobby, one performer pointed out, and not just as far as model airplanes are concerned.
Joe “Rifle” Shetterly, who flies a Van’s RV-8, said before stunt flying was his job, aviation was just a hobby of his — one that many people don’t consider.
“It’s an attainable hobby,” he said. “It’s never too late to learn.”
And apparently it’s never too early to learn, either, as Shetterfly noted that his first flight log occurred when he was six months old.
He got his pilot’s license as early as possible and hasn’t looked back, training A-10 demonstration pilots with the U.S. Air Force and flying his RV-8 on his own.
While most pilots have the home-built plane for getting from place to place, he said he likes to push his aircraft to the limit — or to the point that he thinks the single-engine plane should always be flown.
Shetterly said he takes it to that limit even when he’s not performing, suggesting that any flight anywhere is a chance for a few stunts.
“I usually get upside down at least once,” he said.