As Ride of the Valkyries blasted through the speakers in a nod to the Vietnam War drama Apocalypse Now, two choppers designed for the conflict in Southeast Asia swooped across the Columbia River.
The two Bell helicopters -- a UH-1 and an AH-1, both in pristine condition -- performed an aerial ballet above the river for this weekend's air shows.
They swept toward each other, seemingly on a collision course, fanned out toward opposite ends of the race course and reunited to fly in high-speed formation.
It's no wonder the two choppers performed the intricate dance so flawlessly -- the pair's lead pilot knows the Columbia Cup race course intimately and even uses the buoys for orientation during his flight.
Never miss a local story.
Brian Reynolds, the pilot in the AH-1 Cobra's cockpit, is a former hydroplane racer. He raced Unlimited Lights from 1989-96 and won races in the Tri-Cities in the last two years of his racing career.
He briefly moved up to the big boats before finding he needed to put all his energy into his helicopter business in Olympia.
About 10 years ago, Reynolds founded a museum, where he and some 300 volunteers restore and display vintage aircraft. The two Vietnam-era helicopters are part of the museum's stock.
As far as Reynolds knows, he is the only one to have bridged the worlds of air shows and boat races -- the only pilot who is an ex-driver and, when he raced, the only driver who had helicopter experience.
Reynolds' interest in helicopters started when he was a kid.
"I loved the idea that you could fly this thing around like a hummingbird," he said.
The kid from Sandpoint, Idaho, grew up to fly cropduster choppers in the farmland outside of Spokane.
In 1985, he moved to Olympia and started Northwest Helicopters. His company provides helicopters for firefighting, wildlife counts, movie work and other government or corporate uses, he said.
A self-professed adrenaline junkie, Reynolds got interested in racing. And there was no question what he would race.
"Hydroplanes are basically airplanes on the water," he said. "Everything they deal with, we (pilots) deal with."
He already understood aerodynamics, was used to making decisions while moving at high speed and wasn't intimidated by the complexity of the machine he had to master.
And the unlimited class he hoped to graduate into uses helicopter turbines, which react a lot differently to drivers than internal combustion engines do.
One aspect differed from flying, though -- boats "fly" at a lot lower altitude.
"It seemed faster than flying, being right on the water," Reynolds said. "Man, those little buoys go by fast."
But he already had learned something crucial in the air -- how to react to quickly changing conditions.
Swells created by boats ahead move in the river current, creating troughs where none existed a split-second before.
"In flying and in hydroplane racing, all the training goes into the reaction," Reynolds said.
His background served him well. He won in the Tri-Cities and in Seattle for two years running in the mid-90s. And that after crashing at high speed in '94.
But in '96, shortly after he had a chance to drive the U-8 -- "It was awesome," Reynolds said with a grin -- he realized he would have to choose between racing and his business.
"People think traveling on the race circuit is a vacation," he said. "But when you're dedicated to it, you're never not working on your boat."
He couldn't put in those hours and run the helicopter business. But he also couldn't do without an extra work commitment on the weekends, apparently.
About 10 years ago, Reynolds founded the Olympic Flight Museum, which is dedicated to keeping vintage aircraft not only preserved, but flying.
It gives Reynolds a chance to travel once again -- to air shows across the country.
The Cobra he flew in the Tri-Cities this past weekend was a veteran of Desert Storm. After that conflict, it was decommissioned and parked outside at Fort Rucker in Alabama.
Reynolds traded it for a Russian tank he happened to have sitting around at the museum -- "That's a whole other story," he said with a laugh -- trucked the chopper back to Olympia and painstakingly restored it to how it looked during its first mission in Vietnam.
And now he gets to fly it at air shows, including at "Over the River," which he says is one of the best organized shows he has flown.
"I can tell people here have a passion for the air show and Water Follies," Reynolds said.
And he gets to feed his passion for speed.
"Flying (at the shows) is spectacular," he said. "It's a kind of flying we're not allowed to do anywhere else. We can really let her rip."