2017 Event Review

California Capital Airshow 2017, September 9-10 2017
Location: Sacramento Mather Airport, Rancho Cordova, CA
Admission: $30 for adults, $15 for children
Parking: $10 on site
Value:Very Good
Rating out of 10: 7.5
Visitors to the RNZAF Air Tattoo

E-4B Nightwatch Flyby

On September 9-10, the twelfth annual California Capital Airshow took place at Mather Airport in Rancho Cordova, CA. Highlighting a majority of the performances included the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight with the A-10 Thunderbolt II and P-38 Lightning, California Air National Guard Demo featuring the F-15C Eagle out of Fresno, and a very rare flyby of the Boeing E-4B Nightwatch.

Gates opened at 9:00 am both days, and spectators were able to visit many different static display aircraft and booths throughout the day. For the first time this year, the show featured the National Aviation Heritage Invitational which is a group that encourages people to support vintage aircraft preservation and holds a contest for the top aircraft of each class. Those five classes include antique, classic, contemporary, military, and large aircraft.

Flying activities officially kicked off at 11:45 am with the singing of the National Anthem. During the Anthem, the members of the Patriot Parachute Team jumped out an aircraft with the American Flag. Once the jumpers were down, things got cleared for the air show performers to take to the skies.

The show featured a nice variety of different warbirds including three different P-51 Mustangs called by "Man O War," "Daddy's Girl," & "Keep Em Flying!" The P-51's performed multiple maneuvers including formation flights, photo passes, and low level high speed passes. Planes of Fame supported the show with a solo flight by their very own P-38 Lightning "Skidoo" piloted by Steve Hinton. They also brought their F-86 Sabre & MiG-15 Fagot to perform a Korean War dogfight reenactment. The F-86 had to cancel on Saturday and the vintage dogfight act was improvised with a solo MiG-15 performance.

There were very few aerobatic acts at this year's event compared to previous years. One of the aerobatic representatives included Kent Pietsch who flew in his Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet. His performances included a comedy act with joke maneuvers like dropping a tire and toilet paper out of the plane, a landing on the world's smallest aircraft carrier on top of a truck, and a dead stick landing where he landed the plane without the power of it's engine. Bill Stein was the other aerobatic performer who flew in his specially painted Zivko Edge 540 which changed color from various angles during flight.

Military flyovers were of an abundance at the show this year. Perhaps one of the rarest Air Force flyovers took place at the show with the Boeing E-4B Nightwatch which is a 747 modified airborne strategic command and control. There are only 4 of these aircraft built and it was a special sight as the plane made a few passes before departing back to the base it staged at. Also featured by the Air Force was a 4-Ship formation flight by T-38 Talons based out of Beale AFB. The four T-38's made a few formation passes and performed touch and go's before landing at the airport. A C-27J Spartan from the U.S. Coast Guard also made a special flyby which was staged nearby Mather at McClellan Airport in the north side of Sacramento. One of the major highlights from the show this year was the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight which featured the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II piloted by Maj. Dan Levy and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning piloted by Steve Hinton. Prior to joining the P-38, Maj. Levy performed a few solo passes in the A-10 before forming the Heritage Flight. The A-10 West Heritage Flight Team is based out of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona and this year is the first year the A-10 has participated in Heritage Flights across the country since 2012. Representing the U.S. Navy at this year's show was the F/A-18F Super Hornet TAC Demo Team from VFA-106 "Gladiators" out of NAS Oceana, Virginia. This was a rare opportunity for the crowd of Sacramento to witness the VFA-106 Demo Team in the West Coast. Due to a maintenance issue, their Saturday performance was cancelled as the team needed a part for their plane. On Sunday, the team was able to fix the problem and the Super Hornet was able to perform a full show that day.


The California Air National Guard made their presence in the air with their own Boeing F-15C Eagle of the 144th Fighter Wing based out of the Fresno Air National Guard Base. The F-15 was pulled out of the static display ramp and took off to perform multiple passes to the crowd. On Sunday a C-130J Super Hercules performed a fire bombing run across the runway. Due to the hurricane issues going on around the United States, most of the aircraft scheduled to participate were forced to cancel the air show demonstration to deploy in support of people who were affected by the hurricanes.

Concluding flying activities at the show was the Patriots Jet Team based out of Byron, California. The Patriots fly six black L-39 Albatross Czech trainer jets with red, white, and blue smoke. Most of the pilots of the team have had past experience flying with famous military aerobatic teams including the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, and Snowbirds. Their performance included multiple formation flights, low level passes, and tail slides.
Despite the many cancellations that occurred especially on Saturday, the 2017 California Capital Airshow ended on a high note by bringing back a large amount of military flyovers and static displays that were rarely seen in past years. The crowd size was considerably smaller due to the lack of a major aerobatic team, but the show plans to have a huge event in 2018 with the Thunderbirds to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Mather Field. Special thanks to the organizers, volunteers, performers, and spectators that helped make the show a success!


U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight - A-10 & P-38
U.S. Navy F/A-18F VFA-106 TAC Demo (Saturday performance cancelled)
Patriots Jet Team
California Air National Guard Combined Arms Demo - F-15C Eagle, C-130J (Sunday only)
T-38 Talon 4-Ship Flyby
E-4B Nightwatch Flyby
U.S. Coast Guard C-27J Spartan Flyby
Planes of Fame F-86 vs MiG-15 Dogfight (F-86 cancelled on Saturday)
3x P-51 Mustang Flybys - “Man O War,” “Daddy’s Girl,” & “Keep Em Flying!”
P-38 Lightning Solo Demonstration by Steve Hinton
UH-1 Metro Fire Water Bombing Drop
Kent Pietsch Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet
Bill Stein Zivko Aerobatics
Patriot Parachute Team

Static Displays:
Boeing F-15C Eagle - California ANG, Fresno, CA
Boeing EA-18G Growler - VAQ-135 “Black Ravens,” NAS Whidbey Island, WA
Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II - Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
Northrop T-38C Talon - Randolph AFB, TX
Northrop T-38A Talon - Beale AFB, CA
Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady - Beale AFB, CA
Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy - Travis AFB, CA
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender - Travis AFB, CA
Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker - Beale AFB, CA
General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper - March ARB, CA
Beechcraft T-6B Texan II - Randolph AFB, TX
Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk - California Army National Guard

National Aviation Heritage Invitational Aircraft:
Douglas DC-3 Dakota
Grumman HU-16 Albatross
Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing
Fairchild PT-19
North American AT-6G Texan
Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon
Beech 18 Expeditor
Cessna 165 Airmaster

Report and photography by Geoffrey Arnwine for

Click on image to start a slide show

Rafale Solo
Copyright ©2017 TheAviationMagazine.com All trade names, trademarks and manufacturer names are the property of their respective owners.