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2013 Air Shows

California Capital Airshow, October 5-6, 2013

Location: Sacramento Mather Airport, Rancho Cordova, California
Admission: $20 for adults, $10 for children (6-12), $45 Family 4-Pack (with parking)
Parking: $10 on-site
Value: Excellent
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The eighth annual California Capital Airshow took place at Sacramento Mather Airport October 5-6, 2013. Although the weather forecast called for blue skies and calm winds, the shutdown of the U.S. government earlier in the week caused many to wonder whether the air show would take place. MCAS Miramar’s Air Show and Open House had been cancelled mere hours before it was to start, and there were fears that a lack of FAA or Air Traffic Control manpower might have the same effect in Sacramento. The continuing effects of the budget sequestration also meant that no U.S. military aircraft would be in attendance. In the end, the show did go on. And what a show it was: three (!) jet demonstration teams, several world-class aerobatic champions, wing walking, warbirds and, yes, even the jet-powered outhouse. Add to that a well-rounded set of aircraft on static and displays from organizations such as the Aerospace Museum of California and Aerojet Rocketdyne's Space and Aviation LaunchPad and you have a weekend of fun and entertainment for all.
The gates opened at 0900. Parking was handled efficiently, and the massive ex-SAC airfield apron provided plenty of close-in, paved parking spaces. Security checks were handled expeditiously at the two entrances and visitors were greeted by a large array of vendor and exhibit booths. Quite a few chalets and VIP tents were set up along the flightline, but there was ample room to put folding chairs along the fence at show left and right. 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 not a problem. The action takes place close enough to the flightline that a 300mm lens on a crop-sensor body is sufficient to capture the majority of the action. The air show organizers also 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 air show. On static display, 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. A large number of warbirds and civil aviation aircraft filled out the display space. There were also quite a few agricultural aircraft, including crop-dusters, on hand, perhaps inspired by the success of the Disney movie “Planes.” Another interesting plane on display was a highly modified, all-electric Rutan Long-EZ, which Chip Yates used to set both top speed and time-to-climb records over the weekend.
The flying began promptly at 1100, with the Red Bull Parachute Team bringing in the American and Canadian flags. The Maple Leaf was to honor the presence of the RCAF Snowbirds. John Klatt and Jeff Boerboon started off the day with a nice demonstration of the relative handling characteristics of the ANG MXS and Extra 300 aircraft; John later put on his full high-energy high show in the MXS. The Bremont Horsemen then put on the first of their three demonstrations of the day, performing a beautiful aerial duet in their P-51 Mustangs. Greg Shelton took us back to the barnstorming days with an impressive display in his Super Stearman. He would return later in the day with Ashley Battles wingwalking her way through a similar series of maneuvers, including barrel rolls and hammerheads with her on the top wing. The Metro Fire UH-1 Huey was the only helicopter to appear in the show, demonstrating a water-drop in front of the crowd. Modern fast-jet action was provided by Mark Peterson in his Alpha Jet, putting on a demonstration of this European trainer / light attack aircraft using a very nice smoke system. The Red Bull Air Force was up next; the parachutists awed the crowd as they performed in their squirrel-suits and ended with an incredible demonstration of swooping. From his signature Cobra maneuver on take-off to the final rudder slides before landing Kirby Chambliss in his Edge 540 kept the crowd looking skyward in disbelief.
Sixty five years ago the Western Powers overcame the Soviet blockade of West Berlin by flying food and fuel into the beleaguered city in what was officially known as “Operation Vittles.” The air show marked this anniversary with the flight of a C-47 and C-54, workhorses of the airlift. A special tribute honored Colonel Gail Halvorsen. It was he who initiated the dropping of candy and chocolate to the young children of West Berlin, earning him the nickname of “Candy Bomber.” In an operation soon known as “Little Vittles,” pilots would drop treats tied to handkerchief-sized parachutes from their aircraft while on final approach. Col Halvorsen was at the controls of the Skytrain during the fly-by and upon landing was taken to meet a number of veterans of the airlift as well as a group of German aid recipients who had been children at the time. All the while the Skymaster flew overhead, providing a fitting backdrop to the ceremony, while Lt. Col. Jon “Huggy” Huggins provided the perfect narration.
The Patriots Jet Team had originally been scheduled to fly at MCAS Miramar this weekend, but thanks to the work of Darcy Brewer, executive director of the air show, her dedicated crew, and last-minute sponsors, arrangements were made to have them perform in Sacramento. Staging out of their home base of Byron, the six L-39s put on a beautiful high show, complete with multiple delta and diamond formations, tail-slides and head-on crosses, all accompanied by their red, white and blue smoke systems. Michael Goulian continued the aerobatic flying, putting on a thrilling, hard-driving display in his Extra 330SC.
It was now time for the warbirds: an assembly of trainers (Texans and a Trojan), fighters (Mustangs and Sea Furies) and a Mitchell bomber made a half-dozen passes in front of the crowd, spaced so evenly that it was a continuous circuit of prop noise. Dan Vance in “Speedball Alice” and Brian Sanders in his Sea Fury later put on solo demonstrations. An OV-10 had also put on a nice solo warbird demonstration earlier in the day. A Missing Man formation flown by the Vultures Row AT-6 formation team was followed once again by the Horsemen. The team was scheduled to fly a three-ship demonstration in their F-86s, but a mechanical issue kept one of the Sabres grounded. Nevertheless, it was thrilling to see the close-spaced aerobatics of the two jets high in the sky, and awesome to see, hear, and feel them speeding by on their high-speed passes. Kyle Franklin, in his brand-new Demon-1 biplane "Dracula," finished up the solo aerobatic flying for the day. He ended his performance with a race against a jet-powered school bus.
The headline act this year was the RCAF demonstration team, the Snowbirds, in one of their few U.S appearances. This year’s theme, “The Pursuit of Excellence” marks two exceptional milestones: the 70th anniversary of the founding of 431 Squadron and 50 years of flying the CT-114. The clear skies over Sacramento were soon filled with the smoke trails of the red and white Tutors as they put on an outstanding high show. The nine-ship team puts on a very graceful show, segueing from one formation into another with fluid precision. The “Canada Burst,” for instance, starts with the team approaching the audience in the “Canada Goose” formation, transitions to the “Big Arrow” at the top of a loop, morphs into the “Big Diamond” at the bottom of the loop and then bursts into nine different directions on the upward line. New to the formations this year was the “ Lancaster,” honoring their Bomber Squadron heritage. But there are also plenty of thrills, such as when the opposing solos, or even opposing pairs, cross at high speed at show center. After their demonstration the whole team came over to the autograph booth to sign memorabilia and answer questions from their fans.
Air Boss Ralph Royce and Narrator Ric Peterson did a fantastic job keeping the planes in the air and the audience informed and entertained for almost six hours of flying. ASR Media would like to thank all of the staff and volunteers for putting on such a great show and Karen Strong for arranging the media access.
Performers included:
  • The Snowbirds
  • The Horsemen: 2x P-51, P-51 & F-86, 2x F-86
  • The Patriots Jet Team
  • Michael Goulian, Extra 330SC
  • John Klatt, MXS
  • Greg Shelton & Ashley Battles , Super Stearman Wingwalking
  • Mark Peterson, Alpha Jet
  • Kirby Chambliss, Edge 540
  • Kyle Franklin, Demon-1 biplane
  • Warbirds
    • Douglas C-47 Skytrain
    • Douglas C-54E Skymaster
    • Hawker Sea Fury, “Dreadnought” and 924
    • North American AT-6 Texan (x4)
    • North American B-25J Mitchell “Old Glory”
    • North American F-86 Sabre (x2)
    • North American Republic OV-10A Bronco
    • North American P-51D Mustang
      • “Bum Steer”
      • “Comfortably Numb”
      • “Double Trouble two”
      • “Lady Jo”
      • “Merlin’s Magic”
      • “Speedball Alice”
Rating: 9.0 out of 10
Review and photography by Norman A. Graf for ASR MEDIA LLC.
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