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Air show a big success; Willey stepping aside as president

The 27th annual Oregon International Air Show kicked off a full weekend of airborne entertainment Sept. 19. The three-day show enjoyed excellent weather, and highly skilled pilots and parachutists kept the crowd looking skyward to catch the fast and furious action. Approximately 81,000 people attended the show, easily topping last year’s crowd of 68,000.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: DOUG BURKHARDT - A team of nine jets from the Royal Canadian Air Force put on a precision flying display at the Oregon International Air Show. The Snowbirds Jet Team were this years headliner.

“The attendance was one of the best in a few years,” said Steve Callaway, board director with the Oregon International Air Show.

One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was the “Heritage Flight” – an aerial formation that featured four iconic aircraft: Two P-51 Mustangs from World War II, an F-86 Sabre jet from the Korean War and the sleek, modern F-22, all flying together in a tight formation.

“The U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight represents 65 years of air power,” said the announcer, Rob Reider, who kept the crowd informed and entertained with his narration throughout the weekend events.Members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team kicked off the early action Saturday and Sunday by jumping from a plane at 10,000 feet and, one by one, landing on a target on the airfield that was just a few feet wide.

Before the 2014 air show even concluded, however, the 2015 air show was already making a splash as organizers announced that the popular U.S. Navy Blue Angels precision flying team would be in Hillsboro for next year’s event, which is scheduled for July 17-19. The Blue Angels have not performed in Hillsboro since 2007.Even Sasquatch wanted to see the air show so badly that he risked coming out from the forest to enjoy the days festivities. Here, he surprises some kids in the crowd at the show.

In another major development, Judy Willey, who has served as president of the air show since 2004, announced she will be stepping aside this fall.

“More than two years ago, I let the board of directors know I was looking forward to retiring, and we began the process of finding the right person to mentor,” Willey said Monday. “I’m retiring just because I’m ready to retire. I love this business and I’m going to miss it, but you just know when it’s time to step back. It’s time for new blood and new ideas to keep the air show moving the way it should go. I will value this always, but I’m looking forward to slowing down.”

Willey has been directly involved with the air show since 1991, when she became coordinator of the volunteers.

“There comes a time to say this is the right time to leave, and you couldn’t ask for a better air show to go out with,” Callaway said. “Judy leaves huge, huge shoes to fill.”

Bill Braack, who has been serving as director of operations of the air show for the past two years, will take over as president upon Willey’s departure Nov. 7.

Braack, who lives in Camas, Wash., used to fly C-130 cargo planes for the Air Force and has been an air show performer.

“He has a military background and has been a performer with the Smoke & Thunder jet car,” Callaway added. “We’re very fortunate to have someone of his caliber. He has a lot of great experience from both sides of an air show.”

“He’ll do a great job and he’ll be a great fit,” Willey said.

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