2012 Air Shows

California International Air Show, September 22-23, 2012

Location: Salinas Municipal Airport, Salinas, California
Admission: Adult: $20.00/Child: $15.00/Senior: $18.00, online discounts available
Parking:$10 on-site.
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The 32nd annual California International Air Show took place September 22-23, 2012 in Salinas, California. Often plagued by fog or low-lying clouds, this year’s event featured clear skies and just enough moisture for some interesting vapor during the jet maneuvers. With two jet teams, the Canadian CF-18 Tactical Demo, and performances by Clay Lacy in both the Learjet and the Sabreliner, there was lots of jet noise. Aerobatic enthusiasts were treated to performances by Kent Pietsch, Jacquie Warda, and Salinas’ own, Sean D. Tucker. Add to that a full ramp of aircraft on static display and you have yourself an excellent air show!
The opening ceremonies featured a flag jump and the national anthems of Canada and the USA being sung by air show co-announcer Rob Reider, back for his third year. He was paired up with long-time announcer Jim Vanderzwaan, announcing for the 26th time in Salinas. Then, in keeping with its name, the show took off with a roar as Captain “Paco” Gobeil of the Canadian CF-18 National Demonstration Team pulled back on the stick and performed a dirty roll on takeoff. He really put the Hornet through its paces, trailed almost continuously by vapor and wing-tip vortices. Most military jet tactical demonstrations feature a “dirty” pass, but “Paco” did it upside-down with the refueling probe extended. The touch-and-go featured lots of afterburner, and, with the active runway angled roughly 45 degrees with respect to the show line, the illusion was that of being on a carrier deck as he approached and boltered past. Having a little extra time and a little extra fuel, he threw in a few extra passes to finish a remarkable demonstration.
Clay Lacy then put on the first of his two performances, putting on a smooth and graceful show with the Learjet. The “flyingest pilot in aviation” later flew the T-39 Sabreliner in a tribute to air show legend Bob Hoover. The Patriots Jet Team, whose pilots include former Thunderbirds, Blue Angels and Snowbirds then took to the skies. Featuring all-black L-39 Albatros aircraft and a multi-color smoke system provided by team sponsor Fry’s Electronics, they put on an amazing show, featuring maneuvers inherited from their prior military teams, but also including new acts such as the tail-slide.
Kent Pietsch impressed the crowd not only with his comedy act, but also his power management routine featuring an engine-off performance from 6000 feet, landing and taxiing up to place the spinner in Rob Reider’s outstretched hand at show center. For a finale he landed his Interstate Cadet on top of the “world’s smallest aircraft carrier”, a pickup truck. Jacquie Warda put on a spirited aerobatic demonstration in her bright red Extra 300. The monster trucks then took to the field, putting on a ground show which thrilled many in the crowd. For those not so interested, this was a perfect time to take a break and visit the food vendors, the beer stands or simply tour the large number of aircraft on static display. The show has always been able to attract a good number of large military aircraft and this year was no exception with a C-17 from McChord AFB and C-130s from California (x2), Kentucky and Rhode Island ANG units. A T-6A Texan II from Randolph AFB rounded out the USAF contingent. The Navy was well represented with an EA-18G Growler from NAS Whidbey Island, an E-2C from NSAWC NAS Fallon and two Seahawks from NAS North Island. The Marines sent an MV-22 Osprey from MCAS Miramar and a SAR Huey from MCAS Yuma. In addition to the brightly decorated Demo CF-18 “The True North Strong and Free”, the RCAF sent a two-seat CF-188B Hornet and a Hawk from the NATO Flying Training in Canada center at CFB Cold Lake along with German and Finnish instructor pilots. It was nowhere near as international as most European air shows, but definitely more so than most American shows. In keeping with the air show theme of “Heritage of Heroes”, the warbirds featured aircraft from the Vietnam War. A TA-4J Skyhawk, T-28 Trojan, L-19 Bird Dog and UH-1 Huey were displayed in revetments reminiscent of a Southeast Asian airfield. A number of other warbirds and civil aviation aircraft were also on display. The ramp was sufficiently crowded that Bill Newman in his “Super Tug” was kept quite busy moving aircraft.
Then Sean D. Tucker, a Salinas native, appeared from high and overhead, opening his show with the now-familiar series of snaprolls on the downline. He followed this with an incredible series of maneuvers, including the triple ribbon cut, which only he does. He dedicated his performance to Bob Hoover as he hung his plane on the prop in the Harrier pass, and kept it there for what seemed an eternity. And then it was time for the headline act, the Thunderbirds. Having staged from nearby Monterey Airport, the first indication of their arrival for most of the crowd was their fast, low and loud pass over the crowd from behind. The weather was perfect for their high show and the vapor from the moist air combined with their smoke system to provide clear markers of their flight path. After the final Reflection Pass by the solo pilots the Thunderbirds departed over the heads of the crowd. On Sunday, those who stuck around were treated to another air show as many of the aircraft on static display departed.
More than just an air show, this is one of the premier fundraising events in the area, having contributed more than $7.5 million to a wide variety of local charities since 1983, and having an effect lasting well beyond the last echoes of the fast jets off the Gabilan Mountains. As a result, community involvement is very high, with almost 2000 volunteers providing support for the show throughout the year. From routing cars in the parking lots, to providing hospitality during the show, to taking care of the performers and media, no task is overseen. This community charity program has been so successful that it is known as “The Salinas Plan.” The ICAS Academy even sends event organizers from around the world to Salinas as part of their educational awareness program. The weather doesn’t always cooperate as well as this year, and the lighting can sometimes make the photography challenging, but the execution of the airshow itself is always first-class.
AirShowsReview would like to thank Julie Ann Lozano for arranging the media program and all the volunteers for putting on such a great show.

Performers included:

The USAF Thunderbirds

The Patriots Jet Team

RCAF CF-188A (CF-18) Hornet Flight Demonstration


    Jacquie Warda, Extra 300

    Kent Pietsch, Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet

    Sean D. Tucker, Oracle Challenger III

    Clay Lacy, Learjet and T-39 Sabreliner

Rating: 9 out of 10

Report and photography by Norman A. Graf for AIRSHOWSREVIEW LLC
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