Our 10th Anniversary is set to be a top notch, high flying celebration, featuring demos by the United States Air Force, and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Civilian pilot Jon Melby will perform in his Hangar 24 Muscle Bi-Plane, while Vicky Benzing, the fastest female to ever qualify at the Reno Air Races, will perform, as will Kent Pietsch in his Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet. Bill Braack will roar down the runway in his Smoke-n-Thunder JetCar, capable of reaching speeds of 400 mph, while Redlands’ very own Tony Higa thrills everyone with his aerobatic Pitts Special airplane!
USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team
The Air Combat Command F-16 Viper Demonstration Team at Shaw AFB, S.C., performs precision aerial maneuvers to demonstrate the unique capabilities by one of the Air Force's premier multi-role fighters, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The team also works with the Air Force Heritage flight, exhibiting the professional qualities the Air Force develops in the people who fly, maintain and support these aircraft.
Royal Canadian Air Force cF-18 Demo Team
For a very unique treat, Hangar 24 AirFest has been selected as one of only a handful of US sites that will be hosting the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team!
The team’s presence in America for 2018 will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the North American Defense Command (NORAD), the combined US/Canadian military organization that provides aerospace warning and protection of our sovereign North American airspace.
The CF-18 is a twin-engine, afterburning fighter jet, and pilot Capt Stefan Porteous will demonstrate the highly-maneuverable capability of this great aircraft, set against the beauty of the mountains north of Redlands airport. It will be stunning! And we are honored to host our Canadian military friends!
When it comes to super-aggressive, tear-up-the-sky aerobatics, nothing says “extreme” better than Hangar 24’s very own Jon Melby! Flying the Hangar 24 Muscle Bi-Plane, Jon is back for his 7th consecutive Hangar 24 AirFest… and he plans to get even wilder in the skies over Redlands this year! With over 20 years as an aerobatic pilot, Jon is the master at wringing PERFORMANCE out of his 350-horsepower aircraft, and he will pull over 8G’s positive and 4G’s negative during his routine… that’s more G’s than the F-35 can pull! An Air Force veteran who flew classified special operations missions on the MC-130, Jon is an outgoing people-person, and we are proud to have him back on the Hangar 24 Team for 2018.
Flying aerobatics in a beautifully restored 1944 Marine Corps military trainer, John Collver has over 35 years on the airshow circuit with his North American SNJ aircraft that he calls “War Dog”. With it’s 600 horsepower supercharged radial engine, War Dog’s military career began at two Marine Corps bases here in Southern California.
The military would not allow the SNJ to perform aerobatic below 5,000 feet. However, John’s performance with War Dog will never get above 2,000 feet! From his breath-taking takeoff with his propeller literally inches from the runway, to his graceful performance set to a soaring musical score, John will show you why he is considered the “Master of the SNJ”!
Let’s face it… jets are cool!! And the AirFest line up will bring you a vintage aircraft from the 1950’s that was critical to transitioning our military from WWII propellers to the modern Jet Age: the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star!
Greg Colyer and his jet that he named “Ace Maker” will throw down the noise and speed that makes AirFest the exciting show that it is! Greg retired as an Air Traffic Controller, and is now a full-time airshow performer with a 2018 schedule that goes coast-to-coast, and includes Redlands… AND Hangar 24’s Lake Havasu AirFest this October!
A two-seat version of the Korean War’s F-80 fighter jet, the T-33 trained some of America’s earliest jet aviators, and flew in the USAF until the late 1980’s. As an AirFest guest, you will get to see this beautiful and historic aircraft rip through the skies over the Inland Empire in a tribute to our veterans from days gone by.
Redlands’ very own Tony Higa will take to the skies at the Hangar 24 AirFest, piloting his Pitts Special aerobatic airplane!
Originally from Okinawa, Japan, Tony immigrated to the US with the dream of becoming an aerobatic pilot… and a competitor in Reno National Championship Air Races. And Tony has succeeded in both! In 1996, Tony was the first Japanese competitor in the World Unlimited Aerobatics Championship. And in 2003, Tony made his inaugural appearance in the Reno Air Races, and has a been a competitor every year since.
Tony’s foray into airshow flying began at the 2016 Hangar 24 AirFest, and we are excited to have him back and providing high energy for the 2018 event!
Jon “Huggy” Huggins – AirFest Announcer and Ringmaster
On the mic, in his seventh year at AirFest, will be Jon Huggins. No stranger to airshows, Huggy has spent his ‘spare’ time the past 30+ years hanging around airshows as a flying performer, static display, and all-around aircraft bum. His interests include not only the popular civilian and military airplanes currently on the airshow circuit, but also the many spectacular classic warbirds and experimental aircraft flying today. In 2007 he put his knowledge to use and started announcing airshows on the West Coast – receiving great reviews from the general public and seasoned performers alike.
Huggy is a former Air Force pilot with over 7000 military pilot hours and 4100 flights. He was only the 4th person in history to achieve 2500 hours in the U-2 while on active duty and has had the opportunity to fly over 100 different military and civilian aircraft.
As an aviation enthusiast, Huggy enjoys learning the history of just about anything aviation related, and loves to hear the personal stories of all pilots, famous or not. The breadth and depth of his aviation knowledge comes out on the microphone, and gives the crowd a unique insight to the spectacle in front of them.
Aaron Fitzgerald of the Flying Bulls
Aaron Fitzgerald, known as ‘Fitz’ to his friends and colleagues, was born in Portland, OR and grew up in Wenatchee, Washington. Wenatchee is home to a USFS Tanker base and Aaron grew up watching airplanes and helicopters overhead as they fought fires in the surrounding mountains. Seeing these aircraft in the skies all summer instilled in him a strong desire to fly.
After serving in the US Army as a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, Aaron began formal flight training in Long Beach, CA in 1994 and quickly earned his commercial rating. He went right to work flying news helicopters in Los Angeles. Throughout his career, Aaron has primarily focused on flying for the film and television industry. He has performed and filmed for over 100 films and television shows. He has also flown in various other capacities such as utility flying in mountainous terrain and offshore support. He has flown in flight test programs for NASA and Lockheed/Martin. He was the aerial coordinator for several projects that broke world records and he continues to work as an aerial coordinator and stunt pilot for the movie industry.
Aaron was introduced to Helicopter Aerobatics in 2017 when he was trained by Rainer Wilke and Blacky Schwarz, the masters of Helicopter Aerobatics. He joined The Flying Bulls that same year, becoming the only American pilot on the team.When not flying or performing, Aaron lives with his family in Los Angeles.
Bringing the sound and the fury of a 450 horsepower, super-charged Stearman bi-plane looping and rolling over the Hangar 24 AirFest, Vicky Benzing is back for her 7th consecutive Hangar 24 AirFest appearance!!
“Aviation” is her passion… and she is an accomplished skydiver, back-country pilot, helicopter pilot, competition aerobatic pilot… and flying in a rare L-139 military jet, she became the fastest woman to ever fly in the Reno National Air Races at nearly 500 mph!
Vicky’s 1940 Stearman is highly-modified from its original 220-horsepower engine. If you’re not familiar with the Stearman bi-plane, just take a look at a bottle of Hangar 24 Amarillo Pale Ale!
10,000 horsepower…6,500 pounds of thrust…20-foot afterburner flames…0-400 mph in just 9 seconds…
It’s fast and loud…
A distinguished veteran, Bill retired from the military after a 20-year career in the US Air Force Reserves, where he served as Loadmaster on the C-141 and C-130 aircraft, and accumulated over 2,700 flight hours, and 150 hours of combat time.
Bill has a bit of rivalry going with one of our aerial performers, and we are expecting that it will culminate in a jet car versus airplane drag race before the weekend is over! You don’t want to miss this!!
Ralph Royce- Air Boss
The AirFest “Air Boss” is person that is the “conductor and choreographer” of the entire day of performances. With 2018 being his 43rd year producing, managing, and running airshows, Ralph brings his unique knowledge and professionalism to Hangar 24, and ensures the event will be as spectacular as it is safe.
With a flying resume that is simply too long to describe, he has an unlimited piston-powered letter from the FAA; founded the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame; was a former Executive Director of the Commemorative Air Force; and former Director of the Lone Star Flight Museum. Since he will be directing the AirFest activities from start to finish, you won’t see much of Ralph during the show… but you’ll definitely see the fruit of his labor!
Quite possibly the most recognizable civilian airshow performer in North America, Kent Pietsch returns to Redlands!
Known as “The Jelly Belly guy”, Kent’s unbelievable flying skills will leave you mesmerized during each of the three VERY different acts that he does: a comedy act; a truck-top landing; and an aerobatic performance… with the engine turned off!
With over 40 years as an airshow performer, Kent has received every major award from the Airshow Industry, and is also an Honorary Member of the Royal Canadian Snowbirds Demonstration Team.
His Jelly Belly-sponsored 1942 Interstate Cadet weighs in at 800 pounds, and only has 90 horsepower… but you simply will not believe what he does with that airplane!
Kent performs throughout North America, Australia and elsewhere, and Hangar 24 is trilled to bring this world-class aviator and entertainer to our AirFest lineup!