Behind the Scenes: Why No Skydivers, No Flyover, and Delayed Fireworks

The fireworks were spectacular at the Palisades 4th.

Circling the News spoke to Tom Falzone, a former Palisades resident who now coaches the West Point parachute team, and who had organized the skydivers for this year’s planned jump to begin PAPA’s Fourth of July parade.

He, Anne Helliwell and Mary Tortomasi were familiar with the landing site at Swarthmore and Sunset. Tortomasi said this is one of the toughest sites to land because of the cross winds, trees and buildings. Every year, she says “yes” and then remembers the difficulty of the jump.

However, this year the skydiving team was hit with two unexpected setbacks.

The first was caused at the last minute by Vice President Kamala Harris returning to her Brentwood home for the holiday. The Secret Service created a restricted air space from the evening of July 3 through July 6.

That restriction also cancelled a jump that Anne Helliwell was scheduled to do on July 3 at the Jonathan Club on PCH.

CTN learned that no aircraft or people were allowed under 3,000 feet in the Brentwood, Palisades, Santa Monica area. Planes could fly over (at 4,000 feet), but the skydivers could not penetrate the air space below.

Falzone, who is used to jumping in restricted airspaces, said that New York City is probably one of the toughest spaces to jump, but since he’s doing it with West Point jumpers, that group is more readily granted permission.

As the skydivers waited at the Santa Monica airport to hear if the F.B.I. would allow them to jump, Rich Piccarelli, who has jumped in the past and was piloting the plane that the divers would use, was flying to that airport. There were no passengers aboard his craft.

Suddenly, oil started to leak out of the engine and began covering the front windshield. The engine and the prop stopped, and Picarelli, who was unable to see out of the window, had to dead stick it in (glide, with no engine power) to Fullerton airport, looking out the side window.

Luckily, he was only two miles out of that airport and was able to glide in safely.

PAPA Treasurer Daphne Gronich wrote in a July 5 email, “We are all disappointed, but glad that pilot Rich Piccarelli is safe and that the Freefall Sangria skydiving team, led by Tom [Falzone], is even more committed to 2022.”

With advanced knowledge that Harris may possibly be in residence over the July 4 holiday, organizers hope that special arrangements can be made with the Secret Service next year.

Meanwhile, the scheduled flyover by World War II planes also had to be cancelled because of the air-space restrictions. This special appearance was generously sponsored by longtime Pacific Palisades residents Donald and Nancy de Brier.



Cars were double and triple parked along Temescal Canyon Road as people waited for the fireworks.


Cars were triple parked on the east side of Temescal Canyon and double parked on the west side of the road by 8:45 p.m. for the scheduled 9 p.m. fireworks show in the Palisades High football stadium.

The xeriscape garden and the lawn below it was packed with people picnicking. Others had brought lawn chairs and lined them up along the sidewalk.

Inside the stadium, the bleachers were mostly empty, but the field was semi-full. Since PaliHi must follow LAUSD Covid-19 restrictions, everybody entering the stadium (2,500 people) had to be screened for symptoms, which meant answering a few questions and having temperatures taken. The LAUSD policy also states that all guests must wear facemasks on campus, even outdoors, even if they are vaccinated or have already had the virus.

The County and LAUSD limited the number of people who could go inside the stadium. The photo was taken five minutes before the fireworks were supposed to start.

The stadium gates opened at 8 p.m., with two entry points. By 9 p.m. there was still a line of ticket holders that needed to go through the screening process. They were lined up on Bowdoin, which was the “fallout” zone for the fireworks, which this year were being shot from the school quad.

PAPA Volunteer Rich Wilken, who annually handles the fireworks show, was asked to delay the start until every ticket holder was admitted and removed from the fallout zone.

As CTN wandered up and down Temescal, one man pulled out his phone and showed his young kid fireworks. “This is what they looked like a few years ago, in case they don’t go off this year,” he said.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case and around 9:25, the 20-minute show finally got underway and didn’t disappoint, especially the thrilling finale, provided by Pyro Spectaculars by Souza.

People sat on curbs and in lawn chairs waiting for the fireworks show to start.

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2 Responses to Behind the Scenes: Why No Skydivers, No Flyover, and Delayed Fireworks

  1. Deborah Alexander says:

    Not a problem! Amazing Fireworks show!

  2. KATHLEEN says:

    Sue Pascoe u r awesome!
    Love your local reporting, pac pal & beyond!
    Thanks for keeping us updated.
    Kind regards,

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