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Steve Goldsworthy talks with Jim Paules, founder of the American Heroes Airshow.

Late in July the skies over LosAmerican Heroes Angeles were filled with helicopters. That’s not so unusual with all the ENG and police ships that can show up at the rumor of a pursuit, but what was unusual was the type of helicopters in the air. First in were two Pavehawks, a DEA Astar, a Vietnam era Huey, wow, this is not your average event. But for the American Heroes Airshow, it’s just the morning of fly in. Over 20 helicopters arrived that Saturday morning to wow the crowds. LA City and LA County flew in both their fire and LE ships, as well as REACH out of Upland Fire, and a few of the local schools were in attendance. Elite Helicopters flew in an R22 and set down just a few yards from one of the Pavehawks, not something you get to see everyday!

I spoke to Jim Paules, who directs the American Heroes Airshow about how this event got started. He told me back in 1993, while at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying; he wanted to have the first ever helicopter only airshow. David Price, director of the museum at the time endorsed the concept. The first show was called “American Giants a Celebration of Heroes”.  “At that first event we had 8 static helicopters. US Coast Guard –Los Angeles, LA Sheriff’s Department, LAPD, LAFD all came”.  After two or three more years at Santa Monica the show outgrew the small ramp area. “So, about 1997 we moved the event to Hansen Dam. No neighbors nearby to complain about the noise. It’s a really comfortable site having a large soccer field to land in and all the trees and shade” says Jim.

Amertican HeroesSo, how many years has the show been in Los Angeles? This is our 17th year he explains, but when I ask about how it grew into many shows all over the US, Jim credits the Armed Forces. “With zero effort on our part, the military pilots would attend and then rotate out to other states and talk up the event.” This grew into what the American Heroes Airshow is now. The website lists 10 locations of events with shows all over the U.S. Jim tells me he had a couple folks come out from Texas for the event, but while I was working one of the booths I met a couple from Georgia and an LE pilot visiting from Honolulu, Hawaii. This event is truly a draw for helicopter enthusiasts. Speaking of which, Jim himself is quite the enthusiast, but surprisingly he’s not a helicopter pilot. “Every time I had the money to learn to fly I didn’t have the time, and when I had the time, I wasn’t making enough money!” I can tell Jim has been asked this question a few times before, and it seems rather familiar thinking back on my own training.

So what’s up next? “Mike Grier is hosting the next event in Georgia on Sept 11th. Texas, Florida, Maryland, then Washington state, and we’ll have our first in Arizona in late September”. To check out when the show may be coming near you, just go to their website at www.heroes-airshow.com

American Heroes

So I wondered exactly how does one go about sponsoring a helicopter show? Jim tells me they try to provide a template and some guidelines for anyone who wants to do the event in their own community. There are however a few rules. The admission is always free and so is the parking. This is not an event about making money; it’s about showcasing the helicopters that we use as tools to get a job done. Whether it’s the US Military, LE, EMS, Fire, sling work, or training, it’s bound to be featured at the next show.  “The American Heroes Airshow is about rotary wing. We would love to have other aircraft there but that’s not what the show is about. We’ve resisted the notion of bringing in fixed wing, because then it would just be another airshow” explains Jim.

So I wondered, just when do you start working on next years Los Angeles event?
“Almost as soon as the last one is over” Why did I already know that? He starts by reviewing reports from his various teams of volunteers. Air ops and ground ops were the two most visible this year handling all the aircraft arrivals and logistics.

I figured it would be tough to continue to get the support of US military and public safety during this time of budget cut backs and Jim agrees “Its an enormous part of the challenge, if we are going to be successful getting aircraft to participate we have to do a better job getting out the story that this is the event for them to come and talk about their mission. We have media there, public, elected officials, they all attend. Some of these officials are the same ones who have to make budgetary decisions about their helicopter operations”.

American Heroes

Looking around the day of the event, I can count the volunteers; Jim helps me with the numbers. On air ops there’s ten people, ground ops are about ten or twelve people, then two or three media promotion folks, plus there’s three FAA inspectors, two fire inspectors, Jim, and CAP provided about thirty five cadets plus another four or five leaders. “Easily seventy five people are involved, but what you’re not seeing out there is another twenty five interested stake holders in the event.” This is a federal US Army Corp of Engineers site which is then leased to LA City Parks and Recreation. “We had to alter the approach pattern and make it steeper just to avoid excessive noise onto the wildlife habitat nearby”. Jim goes on to say,” luckily we can do that pretty easy in a helicopter.”
 

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