2012 US Airshows

SEP 27 2012
Airshows >> USA: California Capital Airshow - Review

Sacramento is the state capital of California (hence the show's name) and at what is now known as Sacramento Mather Airport, the CCA - in its seventh year - was held under beautiful clear blue skies on a scorching hot weekend. Originally held in June, the date of the show is now timed to coincide with the anniversary of California joining the United States, which it did on 9 September 1850, and it also helps commemorate the events of 11 September 2001.

As it’s the weekend before the start of the Reno Air Races, some aircraft en-route to Reno stop by at the show, with it being only a short hop over the Sierra Nevada mountains to their final destination. Also close to Sacramento are Travis and Beale Air Force Bases, both of which support the show with static exhibits and items in the flying display.

This year saw examples of all the manned aircraft operating from these bases on display, with a C-5B Galaxy, KC-10A Extender and a C-17A Globemaster III from Travis, plus a T-38A Talon, U-2S and an MC-12W Liberty from Beale. Travis also provided a KC-10A flypast, although the expected C-5B and C-17A didn’t materialise, whilst flypasts by a U-2S and a quartet of T-38As represented Beale in the display. There can’t be too many shows that can boast a U-2 in both the static and flying displays!

Other military aircraft on show included, appropriately, a B-52H Stratofortress from the 5th BW at Minot AFB (Mather is a former B-52 base), a pair of A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from the 355th FW at Davis Monthan AFB and an almost new CV-22B Osprey from the 27th SOW at Cannon AFB.

The local Army National Guard provided an HH-60L Blackhawk whilst the US Navy supplied a P-3C Orion from VP-26 at NAS Jacksonville and an F-5E from VFC-13 at NAS Fallon. The US Coast Guard was represented by an HC-130H Hercules from Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento at the nearby McClellan Airfield, which performed a flypast.

Local Law Enforcement was well represented in the static display, with a Bell UH-1H and an EC-120B from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department and a Bell OH-58B from the Police Department plus an AS350B Squirrel from the Placer County Sheriff’s Department. They were joined by a Metro Fire Bell UH-1H whilst a second Metro Fire UH-1 performed a water drop in front of the crowd.

The West Coast area is home to a number of well known aerobatic pilots, who can invariably be seen at all the shows in the area. Strutting their stuff with their stomach churning routines at Mather were Sean D Tucker in his Challenger III, Tim Weber in his Extra 300S and Eddie Andreini in his re-engined closed cockpit Stearman.

All three performed flawlessly, with Sean and Tim each flying two routines as well as taking part in the opening ceremony, which involved flying rings around a parachutist carrying the American flag. Tim is also a musician who writes and records his own songs, performing his aerobatic routines to his own music.

Possibly the most impressive, however, given the low power of his aircraft, is Kent Pietsch in his 1941 Interstate Cadet, who performed three different routines. For a British audience he is a mix of Brendan O’Brien and Guy Westgate, starting off with a crazy flying routine, which includes losing an aileron. His next routine is a truck top landing and for his final display he climbs to 6,000 feet, switches off the engine and performs an aerobatic routine in descent to a dead stick landing, pulling up and stopping at the commentator’s outstretched hand.

On the heavier side, United Parcel Service (UPS) has operations at Mather whilst its main competitor Federal Express (FedEx) operates from Sacramento International Airport. However, both companies had examples of their aircraft on show, with Fedex providing an Airbus A310, an ATR-72 and a Cessna 208 whilst UPS provided examples of both a Boeing 757 and 767.

On a lighter note the West Coast Ravens put up a 16-ship formation of Vans RVs of various different models for a series of formation flybys. Other formation flying was provided by the Red Stars Precision Formation Team, flying four Nanchang CJ-6s.

There were plenty of other warbirds on show, both in the air and on the ground. The largest was John Ward's beautiful B-25N Mitchell “Old Glory” which was tucked away at the back of the static park, alongside other North American products in the shape of a trio of T-28 Trojans.

Other aircraft found in the static were predominantly also North American products such as a number of T-6/SNJ Texans, one of which was a rare SNJ-5C fitted with a tail hook for carrier landing training. The smartest and certainly the cleanest warbird on show was Charles Somers' P-51D Mustang “Daddy’s Girl”, which the crew seemed to spend the whole day polishing!

Also found in the static park was the P-51D formerly owned by David Gilmour, now named “Comfortably Numb”, no doubt named after the one of the previous owners best known songs! One of the few products from other manufacturers on show was Tony Banta’s Curtiss P-40E Warhawk.

The most modern aircraft to warrant a warbird tag was an AH-1S Huey Cobra operated by the Cactus Air Force at Carson City. This aircraft is painted in an arctic high visibility scheme, which makes a welcome change from the type’s usual drab green!

The Southern California Wing of the Commemorative Air Force from Camarillo were out in force, fielding their F-6F Hellcat “Minsi III”, their F-8F Bearcat and their Rolls Royce Griffon powered Mk XIV Spitfire. There aren’t that many airworthy Spitfires in the USA so this was a rare opportunity to see one.

These three all took to the skies for a series of flybys, in company with Tony Banta’s P-51D “Kimberley Kaye”, with the Rolls-Royce powered aircraft paired up and followed by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial powered pair, for an interesting comparison in aircraft noise. They were followed by Eddie Andreini in his recently acquired, and highly polished, P-51D. Unlike most P-51s it doesn’t carry a name, but the code letters are apparently his wife’s initials!

The flying display also benefitted from the presence of two aircraft from the Planes of Fame Museum at Chino, both of which were flown by the legendary Steve Hinton. As part of the opening ceremony, Steve did a series of flybys in the PoFM's P-38L Lightning, later he took to the sky in the F-4U Corsair and climbed back into the P-38 for the Heritage Flight with an F-16C from the 388th FW at Hill AFB, flown by Captain Garrett “Mace” Dover, last year’s Viper West demonstration pilot.

Due to Department of Defence (DoD) cutbacks the only displays being performed by the USAF this year are by the Thunderbirds and a limited number of displays by the F-22A Raptor. However, the Heritage Flight programme is still running, although it’s no longer funded by the DoD, and, as well as the paired flypasts, each aircraft performed a number of solo passes.

The final item in the display, and the headline act, was the USAF’s Thunderbirds, who performed with their usual precision, with their white aircraft and smoke contrasting beautifully with the deep blue skies.

Judging by the size of the crowd the CCA is a highly popular event, so it has no doubt cemented its place in the nation’s airshow calendar.

It also offers a few extras, in particular a photo tour package which allows photographers access to the site on the two days before the show plus early access on show days, before sunrise.

Also included on the show days is a dedicated photo pit on the opposite side of the runways, which allows the flying display to be shot down sun. However, this didn’t include the Heritage Flight or the Thunderbirds, as the photo pit was vacated before they performed. The total package was $350, but day passes were available for the show days at $100 a day.

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