2015 Event Review

California Capital Airshow, October 2-4, 2015
Location: Sacramento Mather Airport, Rancho Cordova, California
Admission: $25 for adults, $15 for children (6-12), $65 Family 4-Pack (with parking)
Parking: $10 on site
Value: Very Good
Rating out of 10:10 out of 10 on their 10th anniversary

Rob Holland, MX-S Aerobatics

The tenth annual California Capital Airshow took place October 2-4 and attracted record crowds. For the first time it featured a Friday night show called Airshow After Dark and by all accounts it was a success. This year's show featured two military jet demonstration teams, the Navy's Super Hornet TacDemo, world-class aerobatic performers and warbirds to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two. And it all took place under blue skies with pleasant temperatures.

The gates opened at 0900. Entrance signage from the freeway was extensive, the expansive apron of the former Strategic Air Command base provided plenty of close-in parking and ticket and security checks were handled very efficiently. Spectators have the option of purchasing VIP seating or chalet packages but there was a lot of space both to show right and left along the fenceline to put up folding chairs or lay out a blanket. The US airshow industry still suffers from the effects of the ongoing budget sequestration which limits military participation, so military aircraft were still scarce. The Air Force had a C-5 Galaxy from nearby Travis AFB, two T-38 Talons from Beale AFB, a B-52 Stratofortress, "Global Warrior," from Barksdale AFB, and an Air National Guard F-15D Eagle from Fresno. The US Army had a UH-60 Blackhawk from the local National Guard installation at Mather Field. UPS and FedEx brought cargo planes such as the 757 and 767 and a vintage DC-3 and C-54 Skymaster added to the larger aircraft on static display. Interspersed with these were very many smaller warbirds, civil aviation and agricultural aircraft as well as military vehicles and classic cars. Add to that the numerous food and drink stands, souvenir vendors and the numerous science, technology, engineering, and math exhibits and there was a lot to see on the ground.

At noon, skydivers jumped in both the Canadian and American flags to open the show as "O Canada" was played and "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung by Air Force Technical Sergeant Nathan Tawbush. Jon Klatt and Rob Holland circled the parachutists as they descended, then performed teaser routines for their full performances later in the afternoon. The formal flying began with a warbird tribute to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two. A B-25J Mitchell, "Old Glory," and a B-17G Flying Fortress, "Sentimental Journey," were accompanied by two P-51D Mustangs as they made several passes from both directions. At the conclusion of their performance a massive pyrotechnic "Wall of Fire" erupted along the length of the runway. For the next four hours the skies above Mather Field were filled with the sounds of jets and props, and in the case of "The Screamin' Sasquatch Jet Waco" sometimes both at the same time.
Both John Klatt and Rob Holland flew amazing aerobatic routines in their respective MX-S aircraft. Gene Soucy put on an aggressive display in his ShowCat biplane, but the massive amount of smoke he generates makes photography difficult. Jeff Beorboon also performed a biplane routine, but in the jet-assisted Waco.

However, it's a fair bet that most of the spectators were there to see, hear and smell the modern military jets. First up was the Navy's Super Hornet TacDemo, or tactical demonstration. Lt. Zach Pleis, from nearby Granite Bay, is a flight instructor with VFA-122, the "Flying Eagles," at Naval Air Station Lemoore. He flew the single-seat F/A-18E Super Hornet through an amazing series of maneuvers that started off with a full afterburner launch into an inverted roll and just didn't let up. Many in the crowd had never experienced a touch-and-go landing, so were momentarily disappointed when "Sprite" seemed to be ending his demo early. They were quite surprised when he hit the 'burners and took off again to complete his routine. The high-speed passes pulled an impressive amount of vapor out of the clear blue sky.

The Canadian Force's Snowbirds demonstration team concluded their 2015 season at Sacramento in fine form. Their nine-ship formations were spot on and their transitions were smooth and deliberate and the solo and pair crossings at show center elicited gasps from the crowds. The Thunderbirds closed the show in their usual high-energy precision manner in a series of maneuvers meant to show off the capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

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 most of the action, especially on a crop-sensor camera. 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 a scissor-lift at show center. This year’s show attracted a record 109,000 spectators, exceeding the expectations of the organizers. “We’re very pleased with the success of the Airshow and our unforgettable night show,” said Darcy Brewer, executive director of the California Capital Airshow. “The Sacramento region enjoyed a boost to the local economy as visitors from across the nation and several other countries attended this thrilling and meaningful event.” The proceeds from the event will fund scholarships to regional youth interested in pursuing education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Aviation and Aerospace. “Based on the success of the show, the positive feedback from our guests and the overwhelming support of our community partners, the Board is looking forward to another ten years,” said Ted Gaebler, chairman of the California Capital Airshow Board of Directors.

Narrator Ric Peterson and Air Boss Ralph Royce teamed up once again and did a fantastic job of keeping the airspace safe and the record audience informed and entertained. We would like to thank Darcy Brewer, executive director of the California Capital Airshow, and all of the staff, volunteers and sponsors for putting on such a great show and Karen Strong for arranging the media access.

Performers included:

USAF Thunderbirds
RCAF Snowbirds
F/A-18E Super Hornet TacDemo, VFA-122 “Flying Eagles”, NAS Lemoore
Matt Younkin, Beech 18 Aerobatics
Gene Soucy, ShowCat Biplane Aerobatics
B-17 Flying Fortress “Sentimental Journey”
B-25 Mitchell “Old Glory”
P-51D Mustang “Comfortably Numb”
P-51D Mustang “Daddy's Girl”
John Klatt, MX-S Aerobatics
Rob Holland, MX-S Aerobatics
Jeff Boerboon, Jet WACO Aerobatics

Static displays included:

California ANG F-15D Eagle
USAF T-38 Talon
USAF C-5 Galaxy
USAF B-52 Stratofortress “Global Warrior”
US Army UH-60 Blackhawk
CAL FIRE S-2 Tracker
CAL FIRE OV-10 Bronco
Metro Fire UH-1 Huey
UPS Boeing 767
UPS Boeing 757
FedEx Cessna 208
FedEx Alenia ATR42
Douglas DC-3 “Spirit of Benovia”
Douglas C-54 Skymaster

Plus numerous warbirds and general aviation aircraft

Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for

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