Mustang Days is a gathering of various vintage aircraft in Vacaville California. Rob Edgcumbe made his first trip to see what it had on offer.
A year ago I was in the process of moving from Chicago to California. While on the flight across, I got a message from a friend of a friend who lived close to my new home. He told me about Mustang Days at Nut Tree Airport on Vacaville. Unfortunately, it was the following day and I figured that the first day in our new area was not a good one on which to head off to an airport. I did make a mental note to make sure I didn’t miss it next time around though.
Vacaville is located a little over half way from San Francisco to Sacramento. Nut Tree Airport is the home of the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum. The annual Mustang Days event does include a number of Mustangs (and Thunder Mustangs) but it is an opportunity for a wide variety of vintage aircraft to show up. It isn’t an air show with an organized flying display and a display box. Instead, aircraft show up and depart throughout the day. Many of them will provide a few flypasts while they are up to keep everyone amused. Meanwhile, the crowds can mill about through the ranks of parked aircraft on the ramp.
The morning has the best light for photography. I was a little late getting there after being distracted by a Lockheed JetStar in Oakland. I met up with a bunch of the regulars and settled in for a relaxing day of flying activity. With a steady stream of movements, I ended up not spending much time wandering the ramp. Each time I thought it might be a good idea to walk over, something new would fire up. In the middle of the day, the heat haze became a lot more of a problem for shooting anything at any range. As the day wound down, the light had moved around to more of a backlight. However, the temperatures had cooled down so the haze issue diminished.
At the end of the day, the light, while at an awkward angle, had become very nice. Meanwhile the wind had shifted so the runway reversed which meant the aircraft were taking off towards the light which helped a lot. Those who had been in previous years commented on the row of eucalyptus trees that used to be on the opposite side of the field but have now been cut down. Apparently, they used to provide a nice backdrop for photography. Now you are competing with cars, power lines and buildings for you background so avoiding distracting elements becomes a bit more tricky.
The variety of planes was excellent. There were a couple of Mustangs, including the rare P-51H, as well as a selection of T-6/SNJs, T-28s and CJ-6s. Add in a wide variety of Rans RVs, a few Ercoupes, some vintage Cessnas, WACOs, Stearman and a Travel Air, you can see that there was plenty to watch. Combine that with a sunny but not overly hot day and you will understand why I headed home in a very good mood. I met some good people as well so, all in all, a great day out. The calendar will be marked for next year.