The annual air show, with its parachute team, vintage planes and fireworks, will light up the skies over Hillsboro this weekend
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Even without the Blue Angels, this year's Oregon International Air Show is sure to leave visitors with strained necks as they gaze into the sky over Washington County this weekend.

The event, which runs Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16, will feature civilian and military flying acts as well as the one of the largest firework displays in Oregon.

'We absolutely have the biggest show we've ever had,' said Steve Callaway, media coordinator and board director for the air show, held at the Hillsboro Airport.

Among the highlights of this year's line-up will be the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Jump Team. During the day, the jumpers will perform with canisters strapped to their ankles that emit colorful smoke as they tumble through the air.

At night, the canisters will be replaced with pyrotechnic spark devices to enhance visibility, said Staff Sgt. Chris Altman, a performer with the group.

Altman said the Golden Knights typically carry out a 'bomb burst maneuver' in which the performers float together and lock arms as they fall through the sky. At one point, the active-duty military sky divers fly apart from each other and deploy their parachutes.

Executing the maneuver involves much more skill than regular sky diving, because the parachutists must know how to adjust their bodies to travel through the air. How they move their limbs will determine whether they speed up, slow down, or shift in position.

'You're flying your body like a high performance aircraft, except you have no engine,' Altman said. 'You're using your body to deflect wind. You can use your arms and legs as flight controls.'

Visitors to the Oregon International Air Show will see plenty of plane and jet acrobatics as well. An act with particular appeal for history buffs will be performed by Lt. Col. Rodger Kelsay, the founder and president of the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum in Hillsboro.

The plane Kelsay will fly in, a Soviet-era MiG-17F, is a relic of the Cold War and the same model the North Vietnamese used against the U.S. in the 1960s. The museum acquired the aircraft in 1995 and restored it to flight status; it had originally been built in 1958 in Poland and used in that country's air force.

'It was up there defending the Iron Curtain, so to speak, but whether this particular one saw any action is sketchy,' said museum director Doug Donkel. 'Eastern European airplanes are quite interesting from the engineering standpoint.'

Gaining insights into plane engineering is necessary for the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum, because the restoration process is so difficult to complete. Necessary machine parts aren't readily available, and require exhaustive searches. 'We have to network with people from around the world to find the pieces,' said Donkel.

The Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum will also have another flight demonstration during the air show: a BAC Jet Provost Mk.3A flown by retired Col. Scott Powell, a Vietnam air combat veteran. The jet was used by Britain's Royal Air Force for training, said Donkel, because its slower speed allowed for greater maneuverability.

'The Provost does more aerobatics than the MiG, because the MiG is faster.'

The museum's flight demonstrations, the parachute show, and other spectacles will occur on both days of the Oregon International Air Show, but the only time you can catch the Homeland Fireworks Extravaganza and Pyro Show is on Saturday night.

Bruce Lawson, owner of Homeland Fireworks, said the planned wall of fire will be bigger than anything done previously. Not only will there be a greater variety and quantity of exploding shells, but twice the number of blasting guns.

'I have two pyros (firework technicians) who have been shooting for a total of 50 to 60 years combined, and this is the largest they've ever done,' he said. 'You've never seen anything like it.'

Beyond the fireworks, rocket-propelled jet cars, and people jumping from helicopters onto airplanes - all of which will be featured this year - Steve Callaway said that attending the air show isn't just an entertaining experience, but a generous gesture as well.

The past 18 annual shows have raised more than $850,000 for charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Doernbecher Children's Hospital, he said. 'You can go to the air show, have an incredible experience, and know that you're giving to charities. It makes you feel good.'

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