Planes fly in from the West for California air show

LOS ANGELES - Big crowds packed Van Nuys Airport Aviation Expo 2000 to watch a B-2 stealth bomber and other craft fly overhead Saturday.

''There was almost a church-like atmosphere,'' said Stacy Geere, the airport's event coordinator, as the bat-like craft swooped over the crowd. ''You had thousands of spectators absolutely in awe. It just takes your breath away.''

A Guinness Book of Records holder jumped from a plane holding a huge American flag, and the Golden Knights Army parachuting team also performed.

The weekend event is free. Held nearly ever year since 1963, the air show displays about 75 aircraft. Aerobatic planes and stunt teams also perform.

Among performers was Dave Benson, an Australian in the Guinness Book who parachutes with the world's largest flags. He stepped from a plane holding a 5,000-square-foot U.S. flag Saturday. Also performing was the U.S. Army's Golden Knights Parachute Team, and Patty Wagstaff, the first woman to win the U.S. Aerobatic Championship.

On display are vintage and contemporary aircraft, including F-14 fighter jets, the model featured in the movie ''Top Gun.''

Organizers expected crowds totaling 300,000. Proceeds from concessions and souvenir stands go to local non-profit groups.


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