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Officials say there has never been an air show with entirely female performers.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The Canadian Forces Snowbirds fly in the Oregon International Airshow at the Hillsboro Airport in September 2018.The 2020 Oregon International Air Show has been canceled due to the coronavirus.

But officials say 2021 will be a big year for the air show, as it plans two shows in the Portland area within months of each other, including one air show that will be unlike any in world history.

Every performer in the 2021 air show in Hillsboro will be female, officials announced July 11. It's the first all-female, "unmanned" show in history, officials say.

The event will take place at the Hillsboro Airport from May 21 to May 23. A second 2021 air show is scheduled in McMinnville just months later, July 30 through Aug. 1.

The decision to host an all-female air show comes after the air show announced, this past winter, other major changes to the show going forward.

In December, air show officials said the 2020 air show wouldn't be held in Hillsboro for the second straight year. The Hillsboro Airport hosted the event for decades prior to 2019, when construction on a new runway at the airport forced event organizers to move the air show to McMinnville. The recently canceled 2020 air show was scheduled to take place at the McMinnville Airport Sept. 25 to Sept. 27.

At the time, air show president Bill Braack said after 2020, people should expect the dual air show format to be the norm. He emphasized there would be enough demand for two air shows and the two shows would be distinct.

The announcement of the first all-female air show in Hillsboro delivers on that promise for two distinct air shows, Braack said.

He added that the decision allows the air show to highlight the contributions women have made to the aviation industry. It will also serve to show young women that aviation isn't only for men, he said.

"Women in aviation and STEM career fields are still very small numbers," Braack said. "A big part of the reasoning for theme of (next year's) show is to make sure that all people, including young ladies, understand that there's incredible opportunities for them in these STEM and aviation fields."

Braack said the pilots, who haven't yet been announced, will be coming from four different countries. He said the air show is still working to add pilots from one or two other countries.

The pilots will be flying everything from planes designed in the early aviation days to modern fighter jets, Braack said. Static displays at the airport during the event will also be crewed by women, he said.

Braack noted the air show's incoming board chair will be the organization's first woman to take the position. The inspector for the air show from the Federal Aviation Administration is also a woman, he said.

The air show will also be partnering with youth organizations to bring more young women to the show, Braack said.

"For the first time, they'll be able to see themselves in every one of our performers," he said. "That's never been done before at any air show. I think it will be equally important for young boys to be standing in line and getting an autograph from our female performers."

Braack said the air show has historically had only a couple of female performers. The percentage of female pilots in the commercial aviation industry is in the low single digits, he said.

Braack said the decision to host an all-female air show also coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Oregon Department of Aviation.

He said the air show also wants to highlight the state motto, "She Flies With Her Own Wings." Although the motto had nothing to do with aviation when it was written, Braack said, it presented an opportunity to be a part of the event.

"It had everything to do with the attitude of Oregonians," he said.

Braack acknowledged that many people are disappointed with the decision to cancel the 2020 air show, adding that it was made out of concern for public health.

He said the 2021 shows will be some of the most exciting in the history of the event, which dates back more than 70 years.


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