BRUNSWICK – As the crowd quieted to hear the engine of a World War II Japanese Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter aircraft as it took off, Theryl Robbins stood for a better look.

Robbins, 92, of Sebasco, remembers when similar planes were used during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. But at the Great State of Maine Air Show and Business Aviation Expo on Saturday, Robbins said he was pleased to see the plane take flight.

He was also pleased with the turnout, despite admission fees being charged for the first time. The event at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station had been free in previous years when hosted by the Navy — the first was in 1962.

Many thought the air show in 2008, which drew a crowd of 150,000, would be the last in Brunswick. In December, directors of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, in charge of redeveloping the air station, decided to bring the show back and add the Business Aviation Expo.

They also decided to charge admission to help cover cost of the event. Ticket prices ranged from $15 to $20 for admission Saturday.

On Friday, ticket sales had surpassed 32,000, which organizers said met the number needed to cover the estimated $800,000 cost to put on the show.

Roger and Jean Chick of Waterboro sat near the grandstand Saturday. Before the show started, they hoped the early morning fog and clouds that delayed the Army Golden Knights Parachute Team from jumping at 10 a.m. would clear. It was the Chicks’ first time attending the air show, Roger Chick said.

“We didn’t have time to come years ago,” he said.

Now, married for 56 years and retired, the couple were poised to enjoy their day. They were most excited to see the Navy’s Blue Angels demonstration squadron, which filled the sky with booming noise shortly after 3 p.m.

The Zero was the first of many planes to fly Saturday. Just before it took off, the announcer explained how it was able to out-maneuver anything Americans flew during World War II. The plane in Brunswick Saturday is one of only a few remaining worldwide that are still flyable.

The pilot lifted off the ground in front of the crowd and circled back around for a low pass. As he guided the plane straight up and circled back in a dive toward Earth, the crowd watched in awe.

Robbins tracked the plane intently as it made low passes and did barrel rolls high in the sky. He served nine months in the Army during World War II, but was called back home to work as a machinist making parts used in the war.

“I’m familiar with these planes,” he said, but was looking forward to seeing others in the sky. “I just love aircraft.”

His son Bruce Robbins was with him. A pilot and flight instructor himself, Bruce Robbins said he doesn’t do mid-air stunts such as the ones being done by the Zero’s pilot. He had his camera ready.

“So far, it’s been good,” Bruce Robbins said. “We were here last night, it was spectacular.”

The event was scheduled to continue today, but organizers decided Saturday morning to cancel today’s events because of Hurricane Irene. Event spokesperson Clare Tosto said since those who had tickets for Sunday could attend Saturday, she didn’t think the weather reduced the overall turnout.

“It’s a great crowd,” she said. “Maybe we have the same number (of people) just all in one day.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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