By Hayman Tam
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels inaugurated the 2008 California air show season with their civilian season opener outside Sacramento, at the 3rd annual California Capital Airshow. More than 70,000 attended, braving stormy weather to come to Sacramento Mather Airport (formerly Mather Air Force Base).
The Saturday attendees took their chances with the thunderstorm forecast, while Sunday folks were treated to brilliant sunshine, but high winds. The 20 mph breeze, gusting up to 30 mph at times, wreaked havoc with the air show schedule.
Performances started with Tim Decker, in his Pitts Special, followed by a Blackhawk rescue demonstration by the local Air National Guard unit. A fast moving F-16 from the Viper West Coast Demonstration team showed its capabilities.
Bill Stein flew aerobatics in his Edge 540, unique for its iridescent paint job that continuously changed color, depending on the angle of light. In the Oracle Challenger, the ever-popular Sean Tucker wowed the crowds with his skillful display, which ended with a low altitude ribbon cutting above the runway.
A C-130, based out of Air Station Sacramento (located at the former McClellan AFB), demonstrated how survival supplies are dropped out the back of the aircraft and followed that with some flybys before leaving for home.
A beautifully restored B-25J Mitchell bomber, Heavenly Body, then took to the sky for what would be the only warbird performance of the day.
Because of sustained high winds, the F-16 West Coast team repeated its show, to fill the time for performers unable to fly.
Gone from the Sunday lineup was Dan Buchanan’s hang gliding, a skydiving demonstration by the 101st Airborne and the AV-8B Harrier performance. Even the Heritage Flight fell victim to the blustery conditions.
After the F-16 encore, the crowd was treated to a new air show team, the Collaborators Formation Aerobatic Team. Comprised of Sean Tucker, his son Eric and Ben Freelove (flying Extra 300s) and Stein, the team performed a unique demonstration in dissimilar aircraft.
Then it was time for the Blue Angels to strut their stuff. Their C-130 transport, Fat Albert, took off (sans rockets) for a series of flybys. The announcer then introduced short field tactical landings, as Fat Albert began a steep approach to the runway. It may have been too aggressive a landing, as the airplane blew one of its main wheels upon touchdown and limped off to the end of the runway, instead of taxiing back to the crowd line.
After the runway was swept clean of Fat Albert debris, the Blue Angels took to the air. A new maneuver introduced this year, a six-ship delta break coming straight at the crowd line, was a big hit.
The static displays were numerous and varied. Nearby Beale AFB displayed A U-2S, complete with a contingent of heavily armed guards. U-2 pilot Cory Bartholomew talked to fans and answered their many questions. Beale also provided a black T-38 to complement the U-2S.
Besides Heavenly Body, classic aircraft displayed included a mirror-finish P-51D, Daddy’s Girl, the Jelly Belly Stearman and a T-28 Trojan.
The Navy had a strong presence, with its Aggressor F-16, F/A-18 and F-5. Examples of the carrier-based SH-60 Seahawk and the soon-to-be retired S-3B Viking were also on hand.
Besides the U-2, the Air Force brought a C-5 Galaxy, MC-130 Combat Shadow and MH-60 Pave Hawk aircraft. Guests were reminded of the full-time tenants of Mather, with several cargo aircraft on display.
UPS had its Boeing 757 and Airbus A300, FedEx displayed a Boeing 727 and DHL brought a Boeing 767.
Among local helicopters represented was Sacramento news channel KCRA’s Eurocopter AS350. The Sacramento County Sheriff Department brought its Eurocopter EC-120 and the police air unit displayed its military model Bell OH-58.
While guests enjoyed food and children’s activities, the event raised funds for scholarships for local students interested in aviation careers.
Located 18 miles east of California’s capital, Mather AFB was closed in 1993 and reopened in 1996 as Sacramento Mather Airport. Primarily a cargo airport, it’s home to regional UPS, FedEx and DHL operations.