Van Nuys Airshow

May 17, 1986

Van Nuys Airport is a very popular general aviation airport located in the San Fernando Valley, on the northern side of Los Angeles. It's the field I learned to fly at. Located so close to Hollywood, it's no surprise that many studios have made use of it for films and TV shows involving aircraft. The most famous one is probably "Casablanca". To me, though, one of the most interesting was the TV series "Airwolf", which featured a super-sonic helicopter crammed with missiles, guns, and the latest electronics.

About these photos: The helicopter seen in the show was, of course, fictitious, yet another example of Hollywood magic. Based on a Bell 222 model, "The Lady", as she was affectionately called during the show and by her many fans, was based at Jetcopters, which had its hangar close to where I was learning to fly. I would often see it heading out to or coming back from filming, but I never had my camera with me as I was too busy trying to master the art of flying. A friend, Cliff Shirpser, knew one of the men behind Jetcopters, Kevin LaRosa, and I had been over to the hanger, but again without a camera. They came the chance to finally get some pictures.

The Van Nuys Airshow was a very popular event held each year for more than 40 years. I often went and in later years displayed my T-6 Texan there. In 1986 the star attraction of the show, though, was Airwolf, and this time I was ready for her.

Ramp view

This was a general view of the ramp where I flew out of. All sorts of vintage aircraft could be found there, some being worked on, some flown, some rotting away waiting for someone to save them. That Catalina seaplane in the back was falling apart and then all of a sudden someone with a bucket of money bought her, a crew descended on her, then she was gone.


This little Cessna 172, N152DM, has a special place in my heart. It's the plane I did most of my lessons in. It was a fun little plane, but sadly just three years later it was totaled in a fatal collision during another students training.

Airwolf on taxiway

I walked across the apron to the airshow area and made a beeline for Airwolf. There she was, sitting at the edge of the taxiway. This time I had the camera ready.

The concept behind the series was that Airwolf would normally look like a regular helicopter but could deploy a host of weapons when needed - a virtual wolf in sheep's clothing. She was displayed here with the weapon systems deployed.

Airwolf - tail

Here's a tail view of the Lady. The jet engines on either side of the fuselage were just more movie magic.

T-38 Talon

Airwolf was posed nose-to-nose with another plane used in many productions, Chuck Thornton's T-38 Talon. My money is on the helicopter to win.


There were all sorts of other planes on display. The blue T-6 was owned by Kevin LaRosa and the yellow one by Cliff Shirpser. Off to the right is the helicopter used in the series "Riptide".


I took pictures of many other planes there that day, never dreaming I would be flying in them later, sometimes even as the pilot, but the star of the day was one I only sat in, never flew. After the series was canceled Airwolf was restored to a stock Bell 222 configuration and sold for use as an air ambulance. Sadly she was destroyed in a fatal crash. At least she lives on in reruns and in memories.

I took a total of 21 photos that day, twelve of them featuring Airwolf, and offer them for personal, non-commercial use, on a CD. This CD is $10 plus Priority Mail postage. Just use the link below to order and pay through PayPal. If you want the CD shipped via First Class Mail or sent overseas please send me a message with your address so I can check the actual postage for you. I can also send the files electronically and save you the postage cost. Please use the contact link at the bottom of the page if you have any questions.

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