Stunt fliers will fill sky |

Stunt fliers will fill sky

Amanda Fehd
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Bill Cornick in front of his stunt plane, a Pitts S-2C, will perform this weekend.

Thousands will gather for the carnival-like atmosphere of the Lake Tahoe Air Fest this Saturday, which will host four stunt fliers, booths, food and a collection of aircraft for display that highlights the history of aviation.

Promoters say the show is now the second largest event in Tahoe next to celebrity golf.

The festival attracted 8,500 people last year, according to its chairman, Rick Jenkins, a volunteer and former Marine.

Air Fest hosts some of the biggest names in stunt flying in the country. This year Tim Weber, Bill Cornick, Jon Melby and Rob Harrison will be tumbling through Tahoe’s crisp air, defying gravity and wowing the crowds.

These guys take Tahoe’s favorite moniker “adrenaline junkie” to another level.

But they said the greatest reward comes from having a positive influence on children. Flying is still a mystery for a child, and stunt flyers exemplify courage in their eyes.

“I got a letter once from a boy with brain cancer,” said Weber, 46. “He said, ‘If you do what you do in the sky, then I can beat my brain cancer.'”

Cornick, 73 – but built like a 20 year old – started flying in the Korean War, because his other option was KP: kitchen patrol.

“The most fun for me is the kids,” he said. “There’s nothing greater than a high five from a 5-year-old.”

Tahoe’s show is on the intimate side, which Weber said that means there’s more interaction with people. The pilots hope to promote aviation and inspire younger generations to learn to fly.

Another plus is doing what you love and getting paid for it. Weber’s biography describes him riding his bike at age 13 to the local flying school. By 16, he’d soloed his first glider. Weber is one of a handful of full-time stunt pilots in the country and has performed 21 shows so far this year.

Full event schedule

Much of the military aircraft planned for display this weekend has been deployed to help those devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The event is free and doors open at 8 a.m. Stunt performers hit the skies around 11:15 a.m.

Parking is $10 at the airport. However, a free shuttle will run from the transit center at the “Y” from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A Kiwanis breakfast kicks off the day, from 8 to 11 a.m. A 5K run will start at 9:30. Those interested may sign up at Ernie’s Coffee Shop on Saturday morning.

High Sierra Helicopters will be selling rides, with all proceeds going to the Shriner Burn Center. ReMax Realty will also host a tethered hot-air balloon ride, with earnings donated to Children’s Miracle Network.

Three small airplanes will also sell rides.

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