It's all systems go at McMinnville Municipal Airport, site of the Oregon International Air Show, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 20-22.
Runway work at the Hillsboro Airport, home of the air show for 31 years, forced organizers to look elsewhere. And, McMinnville opened its arms, partly because it's home to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, which sits across Highway 18 from the airport.
The air show also welcomes the British Royal Air Force Red Arrows. It's a bit of a coup to land the team.
"It's a quantum task to move an event that's been at one location for 31 years, to a new site," said Bill Braack, air show president, as he overlooks a Hillsboro Airport with a still-under-construction runway. There has been work with city, county, state and federal governments, and "the feds love the new location, because the aerobatic box is clean — free from obstruction, no development, just farmland."
Apparently a lot of people from King County, Washington (home of Seattle), have bought tickets in an unusual demographic change, but Braack also expects plenty of visitors from the Portland area, Salem and elsewhere.
And, the Red Arrows are a big draw. They have performed in Huntington Beach, California, and St. Louis, but nowhere in the Northwest — until now.
Braack said the United Kingdom's relationship with Oregon as a trade partner helped lure the Red Arrows.
"We're their smallest stop," he said, of the United States and Canada Red Arrows' air shows. "They've been in operation for 75 years and, next to the Blue Angels, they're up there at the top in the aviation community as one of the best jet teams on the planet. To have them is a privilege for us, and odds are it'll never happen again."
Another first-time participant is the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, and "the rest of the lineup is fabulous. There are a lot of 'firsts' this year, unique things that we've never had," Braack added.
There are still some general admission tickets available for Saturday and Sunday, and assorted other tickets. More than 60,000 people have attended the show annually in Hillsboro.
The 2019 air show is a bit of a test, as organizers want to see how McMinnville Municipal Airport, parking and freeways work for logistics, and how it's received.
The air show has partnered with Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, where there'll be a VIP/performer reception and more.
Braack said organizers considered skipping a year, but it would have affected charities that benefit from the show, and then once the Red Arrows confirmed their appearance, it had to continue. So, to McMinnville it was.
As far as the future, Braack said he couldn't announce what plans will be, whether it's a return to the Hillsboro Airport or another year in McMinnville. The company has been working with the Oregon Department of Aviation to stage other air shows around the state for the department's 100th anniversary in 2021.
"We're focused on this week and next week we'll aggressively move forward with plans for 2020 and 2021," Braack said. "I am excited to say in the last 30 days I've had talks with U.S. jet teams — U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds — about returning to the Portland area.
"We're making sure we have a good solid plan moving forward. Part of the plan is to score or grade how things go this weekend."
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