California Capital Airshow

Last weekend we attended the 2010 California Capital Airshow up at Mather Airport in Sacramento. I hadn’t been to an airshow for more than 20 years so I was anxious to see the planes up close and watch the demonstrations.

There were a few aerial acrobatic teams, lots of planes to walk around and look at, but it was the jets and their demonstrations that I wanted to really see. There were F-15E Eagles, F-16C Fighting Falcons, F/A-18C Hornets, T-38 Talons, and the ever popular F-22 Raptors. There was even a U-2 Dragon Lady spyplane to look at.

We arrived around 9:00am and the crowds were already getting big. We’d heard that the day before there were about 65,000 people in attendance. Fortunately we had reserved seating tickets that we had picked up at Costco. Most of the people were fighting for spots along the fence that kept people away from the active tarmack. Some people brought lawn chairs and others blankets. A lot didn’t bring anything which meant sitting on the dirt. Our seating area was right in the middle of the activity and we had chairs provided to us. That was about it, though. There was no shade and it was going to be in the mid-90s. We put on sunscreen and hoped for the best.

For the first couple of hours we walked around the static exhibits. There were some really old planes all the way up to a modern jet. Some of the planes allowed people to go up inside and take a look around. I wanted to sit in the F-16, but that was off limits. Bummer.

The flying was to start at noon so we grabbed some waters and headed back to our seats. The show started with a paratrooper coming down from about 6,000 feet with a large flag trailing below. He timed his landing with the end of the Star Spangled Banner. Good start to the show.

Several small aerobatic teams took the air and spun around doing tricks for about an hour or so. It was fun watching what they could do with their planes, but there was a small problem. The sun was sitting directly in front and above us. A lot of the stunts were difficult to watch because it meant staring straight into the sun. Not only was it difficult to watch, but made taking photos very difficult, too. I was worried that the only photos I could get would be dark silhouettes against a bright, white sky. Fortunately, the planes would go right or left out of the direct sunlight now and then and I could take a few photos.

An F-15E Eagle was the first jet to take to the air. It flew around for about 15 minutes doing a lot of maneuvers showing it’s speed and agility. My favorite part was the flyby at nearly mach 1. It’s amazing to watch a jet approach from the distance and not hear a peep until it’s right on you. I can see how that helps in combat when you can sneak up on the enemy. Very cool.

Next on the schedule was the Patriots Jet Team. The Patriots are the only Civilian Jet Demonstration Team in the US, and the entire team is made up of volunteers. Many of the pilots have experience flying with the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds. There were 6 planes to start the demonstration and they did a few flybys. Two planes that are new to the team landed while the remaining 4 planes continued with their demonstration. They put on a good show.

Halfway through the airshow there was an intermission of sorts. A huge dinosaur/robot looking thing came out onto the tarmack and blew fire and smoke while eating a couple of cars in the process. It’s name is Robosauras. It was mainly for the kids, but there were a lot of adults getting pretty excited as well. Me? I just wanted the planes to start flying again.

Once Robosauras finished his lunch the planes took off again. A few small planes did some aerials again and then another jet team came out. They flew around for about 15 minutes and then landed to make room for a couple of P-38 Lightnings to fly around. Apparently there are only 7 in the US that still fly and we had two of them performing. They didn’t do much other than fly by and do a loop here and there, but the history of these planes was enough to get everyone’s attention. It was neat watching them fly.

The last plane to take to the air was the crowd favorite, the F-22 Raptor. This plane is pretty incredible. It can do things that just don’t seem possible. From what we’re told it’s basically unbeatable against any opponent it faces. It sounds like hyperbole, but watching it do the things it did was incredible. It can fly fast, slow, backwards, etc. If you ever get a chance to see one fly make sure you don’t miss it.

The finale was the F-22 Raptor doing some flybys with the P-38 Lightnings. It was called a Heritage Flight where the old and new fly together. It was pretty cool to see them fly in formation.

We had a great time and got to see a lot of neat planes and performances. It was crowded again, but it wasn’t a problem. We didn’t buy any souvenirs, but we both went home with a pretty good sunburn. I guess staring up into the direct sun for about 8 hours is the price you pay despite the precaution of sunscreen. I’d do it again in an instant.

If you’re interested, please go to the Extras section in the menu above and navigate to the Photo Album and then to the Miscellaneous section of the gallery for a lot more photos from the airshow.

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September 2010
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