In September 2012 I headed to Sacramento to go to the California Capital Air Show. Held at Mathers Airport each year, the air show attracts big crowds to see a great collection of historical and modern-day aircraft from military, law enforcement, commercial and private operators. I went on the Saturday and the weather was perfect – warm with clear blue skies. Great for flying!
The historical aircraft flying displays include a great line up of classic warbirds such as the Gumman F6F Hellcat, Grumman F8F Bearcat, Lockheed P-38 Lightning (along with a solo display the P-38 “Honey Bunny” was also involved in a race with a jet powered car and flew with an F-16 in the USAF Heritage Flight display), North American P-51D Mustang, Vought F4U Corsair and a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XIV. Seeing some of the greatest fighter aircraft of World War Two still gracing the skies 70 years later is always a wonderful sight!
Aerobatic pilots included Sean D. Tucker in his Oracle Challenger III, Tim Weber in a GEICO Extra 300, Kent Pietsch with is comical display in the Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet (bits fall off the aircraft and he does a lot of crazy stunts including landing on a platform fitted to a moving pickup truck!) and Eddie Andreini in a modified Boeing Stearman doing some good old-fashioned barnstorming. Great Stuff!
Civilian formation flying was also a major feature of the air show. The Red Stars put on some fast formation flying in their Nanchang CJ-6’s (4 ship formation) and the West Coast Ravens flew in a large formation of 16 homebuilt RV aircraft.
The US Coast Guard did a fly by in their search and rescue Lockheed HC-130H Hercules and although they did not bring a helicopter along for flight displays their was a Sacramento Fire Department fire bombing helicopter display in a Bell UH-1 Iriquois. This was the only helicopter display for the day.
The USAF also put on some great displays flying the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (or the Viper as it is called nowadays), McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender along with formation flights by Northrop T-38 Talon’s and the always impressive USAF Thunderbirds display team also equipped with the F-16 to end the show. It was great to meet some of the Thunderbirds pilots after the show too. They were smiling, joking and happy to pose for photos, sign autographs etc. Not bad considering the very exerting aerobatic display they had just completed!
On top of all the action in the skies the static displays were many and varied from warbirds to strategic bombers. The USAF displays included large transports such as the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy and Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, the mighty Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber (the H model was built from 1961 to 1962 – 50 years young!), the slow-moving but deadly Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft, the unique Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey of the 20th Special Operations Squadron the “Green Hornets” and a Beech MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. The US Navy had a Lockeed P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Northrop F-5N Tiger II “Aggressor” (used to simulate enemy air to air combat) on display too.
The absolute stand out of the military displays for me was to finally see a USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragonlady not only closeup on the ground but also in the air. The ability of this slow but graceful spy plane to quickly go from low altitude to about 70,000 feet is very impressive!
Warbirds on static display other than those already mentioned included a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, North American B-25J Mitchell, North American T-6 Texan’s (Harvard) and North American T-28 Trojans. There were also numerous North American P-51D Mustangs and Nanchang CJ-6’s. The static displays had something to suit all interests and overall the California Capital Air Show was a fantastic event that I really enjoyed and one I would recommend you attend if you can get there.