By Victor G. Archer
The 15th annual Riverside Airport Open House & Airshow, held at Riverside Municipal Airport (RAL) on March 31, was excellent, as usual. For a small show, it had an impressive mix of vintage airplanes, warbirds and modern military aircraft. The event presented plenty of fun for adults and children alike, offering more than 200 acres of aircraft and helicopter displays as well as hot rods and antique and classic cars.
The Just In Time Skydivers kicked off the show, jumping with the American flag.
The headlining performance was the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The C-17 is the largest aircraft to ever land at Riverside. The pilots pulled the big jet out and proceeded to taxi backwards, nearly the entire length of the runway. The plane stopped for a moment and then took off at a very steep angle, approximately 42 degrees. The C-17 made a few passes over the field and then made a remarkable in-field turn.
Making a steep approach to the field, the C-17 made a very short landing, using less than half the length of the runway. It stopped right at show center, backed up again under its own power, and then took off within the same short distance (1,500-foot takeoff roll with 88-knot rotation speed) it took to land, and again pulled up at a very steep angle and banked hard to the left, for another pass over the airport. Guests were amazed to see an aircraft that size maneuver through the sky almost like a fighter.
The U.S. military put in several appearances, with flybys from a Boeing KC-135 air refueling tanker, based out of nearby March Air Reserve Base, home also to the C-17 demonstration team. A Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk from the Black Sheep Squadron made a few passes over the field. An Air Combat Command West Coast A-10 Thunderbolt II single-ship demonstration team and Chuck Hall, in his 1945 North American P-51D Mustang, flew together to form a two-ship USAF Heritage Flight.
Maj. Brian Willits, flying the A-10, performed double duty that day. Earlier in the day, he performed a full demonstration at the Point Mugu Naval Air Station, 80 miles to the northwest.
Two California Air National Guard F-16 Falcons paid a thrilling visit to the airport. Making a couple mock landing attempts, they quickly pulled up the landing gears, put on the afterburners and shot down the runway, pulling out almost vertically.
A Marine Corps F-18C Hornet and a WWII Vought F-4U Corsair, flown by Chuck Wentworth, made a Legacy Flight. Afterwards, the F-18 made a couple high-speed passes over the runway.
Attendees were treated to many great aerobatic performances. Based at Cable Airport in Upland, Calif., Frank “Dr. D” Donnelly enjoys performing aerobatics that are reminiscent of those from the 1950s. He flies a 1946 Taylorcraft “T-Cart,” with a Swick conversion to improve aerobatic performance. The plane has shorter wings, one seat rather than two, larger control surfaces and a 125-hp Lycoming engine.
John Collver, flying his 1944 North American AT-6/SNJ Texan, performed an aerobatic salute to members of the armed forces and its veterans. Collver’s demonstration was full of loops and rolls, but he also included actual maneuvers that were taught to U.S. fighter pilots during World War II. His AT-6 was recovered from a scrap yard in Japan and restored back to flying condition in 1979.
A modified Lycoming AEI0-540-B4D5, with more than 325 hp, powers Rob Harrison’s Czech Republic Zlin 50LX. The “Tumbling Bear” has been entertaining air show crowds since 1993. His routine includes rarely seen end-over-end tumbles.
Doug Jardine, in his Russian built Sukhoi SU26 MX, put on a great aerobatic performance. His exhibition is unique because of the sound of his airplane. Unlike most aerobatic aircraft that use in-line engines, the Sukhoi 26 is powered by a nine-cylinder supercharged radial engine that develops 360 hp.
The Silver Wings Wingwalking Team of Hartley Folstad and Margaret Stivers is always a crowd favorite. This was the first air show for Stivers since her knee surgery in September. Stivers is a seasoned air show veteran with more than 1,000 wing walks; her routine looked better than ever.
Several groups of aircraft performed flybys. The Thunder Delfins, a group of four Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfin jets, flown by Doug Gilliss, Elias Casillas, Don Goodin and Doug Medore, made different formation passes. The Dragon Flight team, a group of three T-34 Mentors from the March Aero Club, made several different formation passes, along with a group of four T-6 Texans.
Fans were also treated to a mock WWII dogfight, featuring a Japanese built Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero flown by Jason Somes and a USN Grumman F6F Hellcat flown by Steve Barber.
An interesting and diverse static display of aircraft and helicopters included a C-130 from Ft. Worth, Texas, a Border Patrol/Customs Blackhawk, a Ryan ST-22 trainer, a North American P-51D Mustang, Lady Alice; and Big Panda, an Antonov An-2.