By Victor G. Archer
Cable Airport (CCB) in Upland, Calif., hosted its 34th annual air show Jan. 12-13. The event featured plenty of topnotch aerobatics performers including Rob Harrison (the “Tumbling Bear”), Dr. Frank Donnelly, Doug Jardine and Jon Melby. The show also featured three skydiving teams and a special guest, Clay Lacy, flying a 1945 Grumman Tigercat.
Three skydivers from the Freedom Parachute Team started the show off by exiting their aircraft about a mile high to begin their 120-mph freefall, dropping 3,500 feet. Just after their chutes opened, an American flag was suspended below one of the skydivers while the national anthem played.
Harrison was the first aerobatic performer of the day. Flying his Czech Republic Zlin 50LX, he performed a 12-minute routine full of end-over-end flips and tumbles. After his demonstration, he invited children of all ages for a question and autograph session.
“Dr. D” was up next in his 1946 clipped-wing Taylorcraft T-Cart. Donnelly’s unique, old-time aerobatics demonstration includes a series of graceful loops, rolls and maneuvers reminiscent of the Duane Cole performances of the 1950s and 1960s. For his impressive finale, Donnelly climbs to altitude, shuts off the engine and dives straight down to pick up enough airspeed for a series of aerobatic maneuvers, before making a dead-stick landing and rolling to a stop in front of the cheering crowd.
Then, the Corona RC Club put their scale model aircraft through their routines. The planes covered a great range of powered flight, from a Piper Cub to a jet-powered F-15, aerobatic aircraft and a pylon racer.
Melby took his first flight when he was 12 and soloed in a sailplane when he was 15. He bought his first airplane when he was 19, and then hired an instructor to teach him to fly. He went on to serve in the Air Force as a loadmaster on the MC-130. After flying with a friend in a Pitts S2B aerobatic aircraft, he found his passion—flying upside down. His routine includes his opening maneuver, the “Rubber Band Man,” along with torque rolls, point rolls, snap rolls, tail slides and more.
Jardine’s aerobatic career started a lot like Melby’s. He went for a flight in a Pitts S2A in 1982 and entered his first aerobatic competition in 1990. One of the things that makes his demonstration unique is the sound of the airplane; unlike most aerobatic aircraft that use in-line engines, his Russian built Sukhoi Su-26 is powered by a nine-cylinder supercharged radial engine.
With a break in the action, the airport opened up for flybys. Some of the aircraft that went up included a Fairchild PT-19, Ryan PT-22, Boeing PT-13 Stearman and North American T-6, as well as formation flybys from a group of Vans RVs and a group of Birddogs.
Before the flying resumed, a parade of classic cars came down the flight line and through the crowd. A Ford GT40, a steam-powered car and a large group of Model A and Model T cars and trucks were included.
The next two groups after the break were the Just in Time Skydivers and The Latin Skydivers. The Just in Time team of 16 jumped as one group and then formed up to create a diamond formation before splitting off. The Latin Skydivers group is the oldest active skydiving club in the country. Fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and grandsons represent the three generations of the Guerreros family. All are former members of the military.
After the skydiving exhibition, all four of the aerobatic pilots went back up for another round of demonstrations.
Clay Lacy flew in on Saturday in a 1945 Grumman F7F-3P Tigercat, one of only three Tigercats flying in the U.S. currently. On Sunday, he took the Tigercat up and made a couple of great passes in front of the flight line before heading home.
The Cable Air Show, formerly, known as the Pomona Valley Air Fair, is traditionally held in early January, making it the first local air show each year. Staffed entirely by volunteers, the event is a major fundraiser for the year. The money raised goes to scholarships awarded to deserving aviation students.