Rejoice! The Florida International Air Show will return to the Punta Gorda Airport Oct. 21 – 23, 2016, and I recently met with air show officials who are bursting with excitement with this year’s event. Everyone I heard from said this will be the best in the show’s 35 years.
Highlights include three days of activities with a twilight spectacular on Friday night kicking the aviation event off. Expect an abundance of static displays, many provided by area and regional aviation enthusiasts who own unique aircraft. Also on the ground, adults can enjoy some suds and sips with a craft beer extravaganza with 25 craft brews and a dozen wines.
The sky will be roaring with all sorts of performers such as the Warbird Review which will give a patriotic salute to veterans. If you don’t know what a warbird is, it’s any vintage military aircraft flown by civilians or historic arms of military (I have a confession, I had to Google “warbird” and Wikipedia gave me the info). Other thrills to look for include the United States Army Golden Knights demonstration parachute team, Randy W. Ball, North America’s Premier Jet Demonstration Pilot, Tiger Aerobatic Team, Franklin’s Flying Circus “Dracula,” and the Class of 45 featuring Scott Yoak’s P-51 “Quicksilver” and Jim Tobul’s Corsair F4U “Korean War Hero.”
An Aerial Ballet with Gulf Coast Flying Circus
If it’s been your dream to soar in the sky, take a whirl in a candy-apple red biplane adorned with a black and white stripe. Gulf Coast Flying Circus offers one-of-a-kind flights for aviation enthusiasts who don’t have their own wings. Jim McDevitt, who has a fabulously wonderful handlebar mustache, is Chief Pilot of Gulf Coast Flying Circus and after retiring from being an airline captain, he’s now sharing his passion for flight with others.
He flies a Pitts S2A, in other words, a two-place open cockpit, factory manufactured bi-plane built in 1981. He purchased it four years ago, completely tore it apart and rebuilt it. He’s been flying it since last January when he and his wife started Gulf Coast Flying Circus.
I “take people who virtually have never flown before and I’ll put a parachute on them and take them up to do a complete aerobatics air show routine,” McDevitt told me. He takes them to a safe altitude of 3,000 – 4,000 feet and gives them the thrill of a lifetime.
The pilot told me it’s a smooth ride and not something where a passenger will be jerked around or experience heavy G’s, like on a roller coaster. It’s graceful, like an “aerial ballet.”
What type of person can take a ride with Gulf Coast Flying Circus? McDevitt told me just about anyone, as long as they weigh less than 190 lbs., due to plane balance issues. The best ride he remembers was with a 92-year old woman who had never been in any type of airplane prior to her ride with him.
Gulf Coast Flying Circus flies from the Punta Gorda Airport. Visit them at www.GulfCoastFlyingCircus.com to book a ride or better yet, come out to the Florida International Air Show to take a flight.
Nuts & Bolts About the Florida International Air Show
The Florida International Air Show is run by about 800 volunteers and over the years has generated about $3 million to area charities. Tickets are now on sale online. Friday in advance is $15 and at the gate is $20. Saturday and Sunday in advance are $20 and $25 at the gate. Visit www.floridaairshow.com to purchase tickets and learn more about the show.
Listen to my interview with Jim McDevitt and air show personnel during my radio show Solo Travel Girl’s Adventures Near & Far.