|California Capital Airshow, September 6-7, 2014
|Location: Sacramento Mather Airport, Rancho Cordova, California
|Admission: $20 adults, $10 for children (6-12), $50 Family 4-Pack with parking
|Parking: $10 on-site
|Rating out of 10: 9
The Smoke-N-Thunder jet car vs Michael Wiskus
The ninth annual California Capital Airshow took place at Sacramento Mather Airport September 6-7, 2014. Although the US airshow industry still suffers from the effects of the ongoing budget sequestration which limits military participation, the CCA was able to secure the USAF’s F-22 Raptor demonstration team as well as the Marine’s AV-8B Harrier II demonstration. The Patriots Jet Team, which last year had made an appearance at the show after the last-minute cancelation of the MCAS Miramar Show, was in the lineup from the beginning and staged from Mather Field. Additional jet noise was provided in the air by Greg Colyer in his T-33 and on the ground by Bill Braack in the Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Car. Warbirds from World War II and the Vietnam era were also on display in the sky. Aerobatic fans were entertained by Michael Wiskus and the wing-walking demonstrations of Carol Pilon. Combine that with all sorts of aircraft and cars on static display, the many veterans in attendance, and the numerous science, technology, engineering, and math exhibits and you have all the ingredients for a successful airshow!
The gates opened at 0900. Plenty of close-in parking was available on the large airfield apron and ticket and security checks were handled very efficiently. A long line of vendor and exhibit booths greeted visitors on their way to the many chalets, VIP tents or open spaces along the flightline, where many chose to put up folding chairs along the fence at show left and right. There was plenty of time to view the aircraft on static display, where large cargo aircraft from FedEx and UPS, such as Boeing 727, 757 and 767s, took the place of C-5, C-17 and B-52s from the USAF. Several warbirds, civil aviation and agricultural aircraft, including crop-dusters, filled out the display space. There were also quite a few vehicles, from vintage military to classic cars, on display.
The flying began at noon and continued for four hours of uninterrupted action and excitement. As the Lucas Oil Parachute team climbed to altitude, a beautiful DC-3, “The Spirit of Benovia,” flew past. The National Anthem played as Michael Wiskus circled the descending jumpers. We had ourselves an airshow! Bill Braack got the crowd going with his high-speed race down the runway: the 10,000 horsepower Westinghouse J34-48 engine of the Smoke-N-Thunder jet car propelling him to almost 400mph. The West Coast Ravens then put on a very nice display of formation flying in their RV aircraft, culminating in a perfect fourteen-ship flyby. The Frye’s North American Sabreliner then put on a beautiful aerobatic display paying tribute to Bob Hoover.
The warbirds were up next, beginning with maneuvers by the Vultures Row AT-6 formation team, followed by a mock dogfight between the CAF’s A6M3 Zero and F6F Hellcat. Greg “Wired” Colyer took us into the Korean War era with a beautiful demonstration of the T-33’s handling characteristics. This was followed by the AV-8B Harrier II tactical demonstration, performed by the Marines of VMA-214 “Blacksheep” from MCAS Yuma. It was a high-powered, high-volume demonstration of raw power combined with the graceful hovering capabilities of this V/STOL aircraft, and brought the crowd to their feet. Michael Wiskus then returned to the sky in his bright red Lucas Oil Pitts biplane to put on his full aerobatic demonstration, complete with loops, rolls and an inverted ribbon cut at show center. He would return once again later in the day to race Bill Braack in the jet car. The very distinctive “whomp whomp whomp” sound announced the return of the UH-1 helicopter. Earlier in the day the Metro Fire UH-1 Huey had demonstrated a water-drop in front of the crowd, but this time it was a Vietnam-era warbird conducting a Combat Search And Rescue mission to recover the Lucas Oil Parachuter who had performed earlier. Top cover was provided by a T-28 Trojan as the Huey came in low and fast, unloaded a squad of military reenactors who ushered the parachutist onboard, then departed just as quickly.
The Patriots Jet Team, which last year had staged out of their home base of Byron, was on the ramp this year. The pilots, including Thunderbirds, Blue Angels and Snowbirds veterans, put on a beautiful high show in their six black L-39s, complete with multiple delta and diamond formations, tail-slides and head-on crosses. It was now time for the warbirds again: two Mustangs, a Corsair, Spitfire and a B-25 Mitchell bomber made a half-dozen passes in front of the crowd, from both right and left. Their demonstration climaxed with a massive wall of fire as pyrotechnics were detonated along what seemed to be the length of the runway. The heat from the explosion was quite noticeable even many hundred feet away. Third Strike Wingwalking was up next: Carol Pilon amazed the spectators with her wing walking demonstration as Marcus Paine skilfully piloted the bright red Boeing Stearman through the beautiful blue skies over Sacramento. Steve Hinton combined a warbird flight with an aerobatic show in an elegant demonstration of the P-38’s capabilities.
The headline act this year was the USAF’s F-22 Raptor demonstration team. Capt John "Taboo" Cummings really rocked the crowd with his amazing demonstration of the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s capabilities. After his tactical demonstration he joined up with Steve Hinton, flying the Lightning “23 Skidoo,” for the Heritage Flight. It was a picture perfect ending to another terrific airshow in Sacramento. “The Show sought to inspire, remember, honor, educate and entertain and the California Capital Airshow’s 9th edition, presented by Sacramento County, did just that,” said Darcy Brewer, executive director of the California Capital Airshow. “From the performers in the sky to the exhibits on the ground the mission was accomplished. We provided a family-friendly safe, clean and entertaining event that had fans clamoring for more!”
Mather Field’s runway layout (4/22) can be challenging for photography early in the day, but by the afternoon when the majority of the flights take place it is much less of a problem. The action takes place close enough to the flightline that a 400mm lens is sufficient to capture all of the action. The airshow organizers provide a variety of different opportunities for the aviation photographer, including access on arrival and practice days, early morning and evening access and preferred shooting locations before and during the airshow, including access to a scissor-lift at show center.
Air Boss Ralph Royce and Narrator Ric Peterson once again teamed up and did a fantastic job of keeping the airspace safe and the audience informed and entertained. (formerly ASR Media )would like to thank Darcy Brewer and all of the staff, volunteers and sponsors for putting on such a great show and Karen Strong for arranging the media access.
F-22 Raptor Demo
AV-8B Harrier II Demo
The Patriots Jet Team
Heritage Flight: P-38J Lightning “23 Skidoo” & F-22 Raptor
Michael Wiskus, Pitts Biplane Aerobatics
Metro Fire Bell UH-1H Huey
Vultures Row Aviation, North American T-6 Texan Formation Flying Team
Greg “Wired” Colyer, Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star
PC 7 Team, 9x Pilatus Turbo Trainer, Switzerland
Bill Braack, Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Car
Douglas DC-3 “Spirit of Benovia”
North American Sabreliner 60
West Coast Ravens, RV Formation Team
Marcus Paine & Carol Pilon, Third Strike Wingwalking
Lucas Oil Parachute Demonstration Team
Bell UH-1 Huey
Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsair
Douglas A-1 Skyraider
Grumman F6F Hellcat
Lockheed P-38J Lightning “23 Skidoo”
Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero
North American B-25J Mitchell “Old Glory”
North American P-51D Mustang: “Wee Willy II” & “Kimberly Kaye”
Supermarine Spitfire MkXIV
|Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for