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Fort Lauderdale Air Show To Feature Air And Sea Duel

FORT LAUDERDALE (AP) — The rescheduled Fort Lauderdale Air Show is set to feature a World War II-era plane racing a modern-day speed boat.

The thrilling battle will take place later this month after the pandemic forced a postponement.

An open-cockpit SNJ plane once used to train pilots during World War II will be racing at high speed just 500 feet above a 47-foot international power boat racing legend.

"The Fort Lauderdale Air Show gives the public a rare chance to witness this air-sea duel," said Steve Curtis, throttleman of the Miss GEICO boat-racing team. "The race is something we only do a couple of times each year."

The high-speed maneuver is just as complicated — and dangerous — as it sounds.

The six-plane team of GEICO Skytypers will finish one of the most popular and visible demonstrations of the air show that includes using vapor trails to "type" giant messages in the sky that can be seen for up to 15 miles.

Then one of the pilots will dive his SNJ plane to a level just above the deck of a Miss GEICO speedboat — a maneuver that requires precision and skill from the men controlling both vessels. They must reach the same speed as quickly as possible to get the timing right for the start of the race.

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The plane and boat race each other at a speed of up to 150 mph, then turn and race back in the other direction to make sure that the wind and ocean currents don't end up deciding the winner.

"It's a spectacle," said Scott Colton, a managing member of the Miss GEICO boat team.

So which is the most likely victor? It depends on conditions.

The speedboat can reach a speed of up to 160 mph, so on a very calm day it usually outpaces the boat. But the plane, even at 80 years old, still has a lot of kick to it. Powered by a 550-horsepower engine, it can hit 150 mph — fast enough to win if the boat is facing rough seas.

"The liquid track has constantly changing conditions such as wave size and wind strength which greatly affect our speed and handling capability," said Miss GEICO Crew Chief Gary Stray. "With a WWII airplane screaming down out of the sky and racing so close, it feels like it could land on the deck of the boat."

The Fort Lauderdale Air Show will be held on Nov. 21 and 22 and the race will happen on both days at around 1:30 p.m., organizers said. Headliners for the event also include four U.S. Air Force fighter-jet teams ― the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, F-16 Viper and A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Event organizers are also taking numerous precautions to protect against the coronavirus, including increased size of the Drop Zone Beach and Flight Line Club venues, reduced number of tickets available to each venue to ensure guests can separate from other groups and a mask requirement when walking, using the restrooms or getting food.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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