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2012 Air Shows
Wings Over Wine Country Air Show, August 18-19, 2012
Location: Pacific Coast Air Museum, Santa Rosa, California
Admission: $20 for adults, $5 for children, free for museum members.
Parking: $5 with free shuttle buses.
The Pacific Coast Air Museum’s “Wings Over Wine Country Air Show” took place August 18-19, 2012 at the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport. The show featured an excellent mix of warbirds, civilian aerobatics and modern military jets from the Navy, Marines and Air Force. The weather was spectacular, with clear skies and temperatures in the mid-80s. For the fourth year it took place on the Jet Center’s ramp, and the venue keeps getting better. This year there was seating in front of the hotramp, putting the spectators much closer to the action. Bleachers and Box Seats were located at show center; President’s Club, Sponsors, Chalets and media were at show left. The gates opened at 0900, but early birds had the option of purchasing a Pancake Breakfast ($8) which allowed access an hour earlier. A Performer’s Reception ($30) on Friday night allowed the public to mingle with the pilots and crews with the ability to become a sponsor.
Both days dawned clear and bright, in contrast to the foggy conditions which prevailed the past few years. Parking was very efficiently handled by the local Boy Scout Troop, and security checks at the gate were thorough but very efficient, so no time was wasted getting in to the show. Taking pride of place just inside the gates was Marine Aircraft Row. Celebrating the Centennial of Marine Aviation, the show featured the latest helicopters in the Marine’s inventory; the Bell UH-1Y Super Huey and AH-1Z Super Cobra, both from Camp Pendleton’s HMLAT-303 “Atlas.” Additionally, a McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II from the “Tomcats” of VMA-311 stationed at MCAS Yuma, was on display, very nicely juxtaposed with the Museum’s older Hawker Harrier. This allowed easy comparisons to be made between the original aircraft and the final design. In addition to the many guest aircraft on static display, the Museum transported almost all of its aircraft over to the airshow grounds for display. The crew chiefs were on hand to answer questions and most of the aircraft were open for inspection, with many cockpits open for kids of all ages to pose in. The hotramp was open from 0900 to 1000, allowing visitors to view the aircraft up close. Photographers were treated to opportunities to take pictures without barriers or other restrictions. A hot air balloon sponsored by ReMax was giving free tethered ascents, providing photographers a unique perspective of the show grounds. During this time, radio-controlled aircraft were being demonstrated, including a mock dogfight between Snoopy on his doghouse and the Red Baron. It seemed appropriate at the airport named after the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. The local CJ-6 club also flew a number of formation flights, providing some early flying.
The formal flying began at 11:30, with a diamond formation of P-51 Mustangs flying overhead as the national anthem was played. Bill Cornick then made the first of his two appearances in his Pitts Special “Big Bad Green.” Then the crowd was treated to a very rare military demonstration. Two AV-8B Harriers from VMA-311, one of them a colorful CAG bird, took off for a series of flybys in very close formation. A fast pass and slow, dirty pass were followed by a beautiful final pass with a break to land at show center. Spencer Suderman then put on his solo Pitts Special demonstration. The show venue is a working airport, with both commercial aviation and a Fire Attack Base. Short breaks in the flying schedule, although not in the flying, were therefore necessary to accommodate the landings and takeoffs of either the CalFire S-2 Trackers and OV-10 Broncos or the Horizon/Alaska Air De Havilland (now Bombardier) Dash 8 turboporops. On Saturday a brace of T-38 Talons from Beale AFB made an appearance; a U-2 was scheduled for Sunday. Next it was time for the trainers: first a quartet of Nanchang CJ-6, then a similar number of AT-6/SNJs accompanied by a Stearman, albeit in Jelly Belly livery. This was followed by a surprise flying demonstration by a DC-4. This old veteran aircraft, a workhorse of the Berlin Airlift, is still soldiering on. It is currently employed as an "Oil Bomber"; the pipes installed over its wings can lay down a large volume of dispersant chemicals across oil spills. It performed a number of high-speed passes right down on the deck, followed by high-angle banks, ending with a particularly nice “banana pass” for the photographers. Julie Clark, Bill Cornick & Spencer Suderman’s vertical aerobatic competition and Tim Weber provided a trio of aerobatic acts.
Then it was time for the Warbirds. The twin-engine C-1A Trader and B-25J Mitchell “Old Glory” were accompanied by a T-28B Trojan, P-40E Warhawk, Yak-11, Sea Fury and no less than four P-51 Mustangs. After multiple passes, all the aircraft but one landed. Brian Sanders, in the Sea Fury “Argonaut” remained to put on a stellar performance demonstrating the complicated physics of wake turbulence, the wing-tip vortices made visible by smoke generators. Steve Hinton then took to the air in the P-51D Mustang “Wee Willy II”, putting on a demonstration of the warbird’s aerobatic capabilities. Shortly thereafter Maj John "Beercan" Collier took off in the A-10 West Demonstration Team’s Thunderbolt II and performed several passes, demonstrating some of the aircraft’s awesome capabilities. He then joined up with Steve Hinton to perform the USAF Heritage Flight. Veteran airshow goers will be familiar with the standard three passes from right, left, and behind. But whether you’ve seen it numerous times, or for the first time, it is always quite impressive to see aircraft from such different eras perform in concert. The final act of the day was the F/A-18E Super Hornet Tactical Demonstration. LT Kyle “Nac” Hartman, of VFA-122 the “Flying Eagles” from NAS Lemoore, put on an excellent show, ably demonstrating the capabilities of the Navy’s premier fighter jet.
Despite the clear skies, the venue is not optimal for photography, as the 14-32 layout of the main runway means that you are shooting into the sun during the afternoon. Nevertheless, most of the flying took place reasonably close to the flightline, so the action could easily be captured with a 300mm lens. For the second year in a row, the local camera store “Shutterbug” and Canon sales and technical representatives were on hand. They were demonstrating the latest gear and photographers could rent lenses for the day at no cost. It was a great service.
There was a large number of exhibits and booths from various organizations. Portable toilets were well distributed and provided in sufficient quantity that lines were short to nonexistent. There was a nice assortment of food vendors, including local restaurants, providing a variety of food in addition to the usual hot dogs and hamburgers, all at reasonable prices. Beer was for sale at reasonable prices, with Sierra Nevada brews also available. A dedicated Kid’s Zone featured the usual climbing wall, bounce houses, slides and other amusements.
Skytalker Danny Clisham provided the airshow narration, keeping up a lively banter throughout the show, interacting with the performers and entertaining the crowd. Kudos to the show organizers for arranging such a strong aerobatic, warbird and military presence at this airshow, especially in the face of economic difficulties and budget cuts.

Performers included:

Bill Cornick Pitts Special Aerobatics

USMC AV-8B Harrier II (x2) Flyby Demonstration

Spencer Suderman Pitts Special Aerobatics

Beale AFB Flybys: T-38 (Sat), U-2 (Sun)

Nanchang CJ-6 Formation Aerobatics

Stearman Kaydet, AT-6 (x2),


DC-4 Oil Bomber

Julie Clark T-34 Mentor Aerobatics

Tim Weber GEICO Extra 300 Aerobatics

Warbird Flybys: B-25J Mitchell “Old Glory” C-1A Trader P-40E Warhawk T-28B Trojan Yak-11 “Blyak Moose” P-51D Mustangs “Comfortably Numb” “ Kimberley Kaye” “Lady Alice” “Lady Jo” “Red Dog XII” “Sparky” “Speedball Alice” “Wee Willy II” Brian Sanders Sea Fury “Argonaut” Aerobatics Steve Hinton P-51D Mustang Aerobatics

A-10 Thunderbolt II West Demonstration Team

Flyby USAF Heritage Flight: A-10 & P-51

Static displays included: C-17 Globemaster III “Spirit of Ronald Reagan” from March ARB P-40N Warhawk T-28 Trojan Stearman PT-17 Kaydet Almost all of the PCAM aircraft on display

Rating: 9 out of 10

Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for AIRSHOWSREVIEW LLC
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