Central Coast Airfest II - Santa Maria Airport 2019

Central Coast Airfest II

by John Thow

2018 represented the inaugural event for the Central Coast Air Fest and after a great opener, there were big shoes to fill for 2019. Even with the absence of the Snowbirds, or a similar aerobatic jet team, the show moved along well and was a great day of flying that included a nice lineup of some old favorites, alongside some featured flight demonstrations that made the day special.

Upon arriving at the event, our first surprise was the last-minute change to the schedule that included our personal favorite B-25, Executive Sweet. Crewed by some of our fellow American Aeronautical Foundation members, it was fun to hang out with good friends.

Time for the P-51, flown by Jason Somes of the CAF and High Alpha Air Shows. J.Thow ©

Time for the P-51, flown by Jason Somes of the CAF and High Alpha Air Shows. J.Thow ©

Air Show Lineup

The air show Flightline Saturday morning as performers prepare for a noon show start. F/A-18E Super Hornets, F-16s of the Viper Demo Team, SNJ, P-51, and Mig 17. Photo: John Thow ©

Collson fire fighting Boeing 737, makes a massive water drop cooling the crowd. J.Thow ©

The Thunderbirds Diamond in the hazy sky over Huntington Beach, CA. J. Thow ©

In place of the Snowbirds was this year’s headliner, the U.S. Air Force’s Viper Demo Team, along with a whole host of support acts that included John Collver in his SNJ “War Dog” WWII trainer. Eric Tucker flew his bright yellow, Piper Cub performing some “Dead Stick” flying and an aerobatic comedy act where Eric plays a contest winner that “accidentally” takes off without the “real” pilot at the controls. He continues through the routine of amazing aerobatics and wild maneuvers, eventually wrapping it all up with a landing on the top of an ambulance. Eventually, Eric’s alter ego “Red Jethro” was back safe on the ground and the show continued.

Aerobatics performers Bill Stein and Rob Holland treated the crowd to both individuals and paired aerobatic performances, the latter of which was flown in conjunction with a series of pyrotechnic blasts that filled the air with smoke, fire, and the roar of propellers. This was definitely one of the more exciting civilian aerobatics performances we’ve seen at any show; though the abundance of smoke in the air made it almost impossible to get good photographs of the thrilling performance.

Stunt Pilot Eric Tucker with his Piper J3 Cub

Eric Tucker, aka “Red Jethro” atop his ambulance landing pad. J.Thow ©

Aerobatics pilot Bill Stein

Aerobatics pilot Bill Stein races past the crowd at Santa Maria. Photo John Thow ©

MV-22 Osprey

MV-22 Osprey kickin’ up dust as it returns to land at Santa Maria Airport. photo: John Thow

Other highlights included Sammy Mason in his Pitts Special and Vicky Benzing in her Stearman as they got in on the aerobatic fun. Jason Somes, from the Southern California Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, took to the air in P-51D Mustang, “Man O’ War”. Jason also brought along his bright red Mig 17, putting on a pair of serious, high-speed, flight demonstrations in these two amazing airplanes.

The Navy brought out a pair of F-18E Super Hornets, and additional acts included the T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker”, Red Bull Helicopter and the Red Bull Air Force Jump Team, and even a water drop from firefighting equipped Boeing 737. The breeze carried the spray from the drop over the crowd, a welcome cool down from the heat of the sunny day.

The show wrapped up with a high-energy performance from Major Garret “Toro” Schmitz and the Viper Demo Team. In the midst of the demo, Major Schmitz formed up with a P-38 Lightning fighter for the Heritage Flight. The show finally wrapped up with the F-16 and a whole lot of pyro! We understand that this was the first show that “Toro” had flown with “wall of fire” pyrotechnics as part of the act. Our thanks once again to show organizer Chris Kunkle for having us out for another great day at the air show.

For up-to-date information on this and other air shows for the current year, have a look at our Air Show Calendar.
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