Page 12 - World AirshowJuly-Aug 2018
P. 12

GREG KOONTZ: FROM THE ACE




                                      A Banana Republic Airshow, Parte Tres
                                                    Ultimo



                                            Parte Dos appeared in the May/June issue



                             I   t was 1997 when I first went to El   Eduardo  Poma  (Fouga  Jet),  Rogelio  Pena  (helicopters),  Tito
                                 Salvador. The deal was to come
                                                               Gutierrez (Midget Mustang), the Northern Lights, and myself,
                                 down and teach aerobatics for a
                                                               among others. The room was full of loud voices and mostly
                                 couple of weeks, fly in their first-
                              ever airshow on the last weekend,   Spanish. From what I could tell, they all decided we were going
                                                               to go out there and fly, and we all were to promise not to hit any-
                              and then hop on a TACA (airline)   body. That was about it.
                              and scoot home. I had no idea of the   The Salvadoran crowd was huge and energetic. They would
                              wild, wild west adventure that would   nearly topple the crowd-line fence to get a small card or auto-
                              soon unfold.                     graph. There is a spirit to Latin people that I have seen nowhere
                                Thursday before the big show, all   else. Being their first airshow, we could probably just have gone
                              instruction was done, and the air-  out there and done takeoffs and landings to get an applause. But
                              port was buzzing with everyone who   they got much more. The Salvadoran pilots are great flyers, but
                              knows how to get past the guards   more so they are fearless. Carlos had his Stearman engine quit
                              at the gate. The Northern Lights   while inverted (right over the crowd). He managed a dead-stick
                              Aerobatic Team had arrived the day   roll and a difficult landing out in a rough area across the runway.
        before and were at the airport early getting ready to take the   He just started it up, throttled up and kept going!
        four main sponsors (Ricardo Sol Mesa, Roberto Kriete, Archie   The Salvadoran Air Force did an impressive four-ship routine
        Baldocchi, and Eduardo Poma) for a VIP ride                          with their A-37 Jets. They had a low budget for
        and photo shoot in their four matching Extra   Brief:  ‘...we all    practice, but ten years of recent civil war lent a
        300s.                                                                cutting-edge accuracy to their flying. They had
          As the team arrived, I was returning to the   were to promise      no smoke, so they frequently opened the dump
        airport  with  a  student.  The  team  leader  (or                   valves on their wingtip tanks creating a perfect
        lead) asked the tower if they could do some    not to hit            appearance of smoke. Uh, maybe not environ-
        acro above one of the runways. The tower re-  anybody. That          mentally safe, but very cool!
        plied, “Clear for runway 18.” Lead said, “You                          Somewhere between great stick and rudder
        don’t understand, we don’t want to land.” The   was about it.’       skills and dumb luck, the first show ever in El
        tower said, “Clear for runway 18.” I chirped in                      Salvador was a complete success. I was given
        and said, “Hey Andre, they have no rules for aerobatics here. If   a huge gold plaque from the mayor of San Salvador for my con-
        he gives you the runway, he means do whatever you want!” And   tributions to El Salvador civil aviation (my aerobatic instruc-
        so they did.                                           tion), and the President of El Salvador presented me with a real
          On this Thursday morning, the team loaded their VIP riders   El Salvador commercial pilot’s license. I was the first-ever gringo
        and departed. I hung around watching Salvadorans bent over cut-  to be certified as a pilot there.
        ting grass with machetes and other local styles of airshow prep-  Last  year  marked  the  20th  anniversary  of  that  first  show.
        aration. I met a TACA captain there, and while we exchanged   I attended that one as I have most of them. So very much has
        pilot stuff, a TACA Airbus was slipping up on the airport at low   changed. The AeroClub has listened and learned. The briefings
        altitude. This is Ilopango Airport. It is a split military/civilian air-  are now very professional. No longer do they encourage low pass-
        port, but not an airline place.                        es over the crowd. (Does close count?) They actually practice, and
          The Airbus 319 was set up for a super-low low pass, and as   it shows. This year had their largest attendance ever; and vending,
        it got closer, I could tell it had the four Northern Lights Extras   security and crowd control has remarkably improved. The show
        tucked in tight formation. I turned to the TACA pilot and said,   is much safer and much more profitable. They have learned how
        “Wow, that’s pretty cool. Roberto Kriete brought one of his Airbus   to put on a professional show instead of the wild, wild west.
        jets over here just for some photos.” The pilot looked at me, and
        with a cold sober voice said, “He didn’t. That’s the regular pas-  Greg Koontz is a full-time airshow performer and teaches basic
        senger flight from Miami.” Michele Thonney, right wing for the   aerobatics at his Flight School/Bed & Breakfast called Sky Country
        Northern Lights, later told me there were passengers squeezed up   Lodge. Greg is a former chairman of the ICAS ACE Committee,
        against the windows taking photos. The wild, wild west indeed.  holds an unlimited aerobatic waiver, and has been designated a
          The  pre-show  briefing  on Saturday morning  was  one  for   Master Certified Flight Instructor-Aerobatics by the National
        the books. The little room was packed with the Fuerza Aerea   Association of Flight Instructors. Contact him with questions or
        Salvadoreña (air force guys), Carlos Dardano (Stearman),   comments: Greg@GKairshows.com.



                                         WORLD AIRSHOW NEWS   12  July/August 2018
   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17