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2013 Air Shows

Wings Over Wine Country Air Show, August 17-18, 2013

Location: Pacific Coast Air Museum, Santa Rosa, California
Admission: $20 for adults, $5 for children (6-12), free for museum members.
Parking: $5 with free shuttle buses.
Value: Very Good
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The Pacific Coast Air Museum’s “Wings Over Wine Country Air Show” took place August 17-18, 2013 at the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport. Due to Congressional budget cuts the normally strong military presence was noticeably absent. The local CalFire aircraft, which normally participate in the airshow, were on alert due to the high fire danger in northern California and were also not scheduled to perform. The show lineup therefore emphasized civilian aerobatic performers and warbirds. The Mustang Roundup succeeded in attracting ten P-51s all of which flew on Sunday. The aerobatic demonstrations featured everything from warbirds to the custom-built aerobatic Pitts biplane and the modern high-performance Extra 300. Greg Colyer, in his T-33, provided the only jet noise of the day.
Both days dawned clear and bright; the weather was agreeable, with generally clear skies and temperatures in the low-90s. Parking was very efficiently handled by the local Boy Scout Troop, and security checks at the gate were thorough but very efficient, so no time was wasted getting in to the show. The layout was the same as last year, with open seating in front of the hotramp, bleachers and box seats at show center and President’s Club, Sponsors, Chalets and media at show left. The gates opened at 0900, but early birds had the option of purchasing a Pancake Breakfast ($8) which allowed access an hour earlier. A Performer’s Reception ($30) on Friday night allowed the public to mingle with the pilots and crews with the ability to become a sponsor. The show venue is a working airport, with both commercial aviation and a Fire Attack Base. Short breaks in the flying schedule, although not in the flying, were therefore necessary to accommodate the landings and takeoffs of either the CalFire S-2 Trackers and OV-10 Broncos or the Horizon/Alaska Air de Havilland (now Bombardier) Dash 8 turboporops.
The Museum transported almost all of its aircraft over to the airshow grounds for static display. The crew chiefs were on hand to answer questions and most of the cockpits were open for kids of all ages to pose in. A number of civil aviation aircraft had flown in and were also on static display. The hotramp was open from 0900 to 1030, allowing visitors to view the performing aircraft up close. Photographers had the opportunity to take pictures without barriers or other restrictions.
The airshow began with the local radio-control club flying a number of their model aircraft. This was followed by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department demonstrating an aerial rescue with their Bell 407 helicopter. “Henry One” soon returned with the SWAT team clipped to a rope suspended from the helicopter. They were lowered to the ground and a hostage rescue simulation featured an armored car on the ground and lots of pyrotechnics. The formal flying began at noon, with a diamond formation of P-51 Mustangs passing overhead just as the national anthem ended. Jon Melby then took to the sky in his black and gold Pitts S-1 Super Stinker. He thrilled the crowd with his aerobatic routine. Just as he was about to land Kent Pietsch arrived on the scene, performing his comedy routine. Pretending to not know how to fly, he put on an amazing display of flying skill, losing an aileron early in the routing, scraping a wingtip on the tarmac and generally just flying every which way but straight and level. The Trainer Parade featured Boeing Stearmans and North American AT-6 Texans, Harvards and SNJs. Brian Sanders then turned in an amazing performance in his Sea Fury “Argonaut.” Smoke generators (designed, built and patented by the Sanders family) are mounted under the wingtips and make the incredible dynamics of the wake turbulence visible. The wingtip vortices billow, snake and join into coiling loops which persist for a remarkably long time. The next warbirds were all North American aircraft. The B-25J Mitchell “Old Glory” was joined by two Trojans and an OV-10A. One of the Trojans featured machine guns and rocket pods mounted to the underwing hardpoints and the Bronco was in a green Marine paint scheme. Both camouflaged aircraft were a welcome change from the usual bright T-28 trainer markings or the hi-vis CalFire Bronco markings. A Douglas DC-4 put on a spirited display with a number of high-speed passes, a dirty pass on the deck, and several very nice highly banked “banana” passes. Kent Pietsch then landed on the world’s smallest aircraft carrier: a pickup truck with two rails mounted on its roof. Julie Clark then performed a very nice routine in her Beech T-34 Mentor, featuring red, white and blue smoke and concluding with a fast pass down on the deck. Unfortunately on Saturday grass fires erupted along the length of the runway after her final pass. Local fire engines were soon on the scene racing up and down the tarmac to douse the flames, but without firefighters on the ground the strong breeze reignited the embers as soon as the trucks left to put out another fire. The Sheriff’s Department Bell 407 soon joined the fight, making many water drops with its suspended water bucket. Finally CalFire took over, launching its OV-10 command and control plane, two S-2 water bombers and a UH-1H Huey equipped with a large Bambi Bomber. The audience got a front row view of CalFire in action after all!
Next up was the warbird display. Unfortunately, the fire on Saturday pre-empted this part of the show, so only Sunday’s visitors were treated to the spectacle of ten P-51 Mustangs in the air at the same time. Joining them were a P-40 and two Sea Furies. Several of the Mustangs took off and flew in formations of four, whereas others performed singly. After multiple passes, all the aircraft but one landed. Dan Vance, in “Speedball Alice,” put on a beautiful demonstration of the warbird’s aerobatic capabilities.
Michael Goulian then energized the crowd with a hard-driving, aggressive routine that pushed his Extra 300S to the limits. He demonstrated the skill and passion which have earned him several of the highest airshow and aerobatic awards. Kent Pietsch performed for the third time, demonstrating his superb energy management technique by cutting the power on his airplane at 6,000’, performing a series of loops and rolls and finally landing to bring the spinner of the aircraft to the outstretched hand of a volunteer waiting on the runway. Greg Colyer finished up the day’s flying with a very nice demonstration in his T-33 Shooting Star.
There were a large number of exhibits and booths from various organizations. There was a nice assortment of food vendors, including local restaurants, providing a variety of food in addition to the usual hot dogs and hamburgers, all at reasonable prices. Beer was for sale at reasonable prices, with local microbrews such as Sierra Nevada and Lagunitas also available. A dedicated Kid’s Zone featured the usual climbing wall, bounce houses, slides and other amusements.
Announcer Danny “SkyTalker” Clisham provided his usual lively and entertaining narration and Air Boss Willie Turner did a great job keeping the sky filled with aircraft, and managed Saturday’s interruption with aplomb. The show organizers did a great job of arranging such a strong aerobatic and warbird lineup at this airshow. Thanks to them and all of the staff and volunteers in making this such an enjoyable airshow. ASR Media would like to thank Doug Clay for arranging the media access and his support during the show.

Aerobatic Performers:

  • Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team Tactical Demo
  • Nanchang CJ-6 Formation Flight
  • Aerobatics:
    • Julie Clark, Beech T-34A Mentor
    • Greg “Wired” Colyer, Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star
    • Michael Goulian, Extra 300S
    • Jon Melby, Pitts S-1-11B Super Stinker
    • Kent Pietsch, Interstate Cadet
    • Brian Sanders, Hawker Sea Fury “Argonaut”
    • Dan Vance, North American P-51D Mustang “Speedball Alice”
  • Warbird Flybys:
    • Boeing Stearman (x2)
    • Douglas DC-4
    • Hawker Sea Fury (x2)
    • North American AT-6, SNJ & Harvard MkIV
    • North American B-25J Mitchell “Old Glory”
    • North American Republic OV-10A Bronco
    • Curtiss P-40E Warhawk
    • North American T-28 Trojan (x2)
  • North American P-51D Mustangs
    • “Comfortably Numb”
    • “Grim Reaper”
    • “Kimberly Kaye”
    • “Lady Alice”
    • “Lady Jo”
    • “Red Dog XII”
    • “Sparky”
    • “Speedball Alice”
    • “Straw Boss 2”
  • North American F-51H Mustang
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Review and photography by Norman A. Graf for ASR MEDIA LLC.
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