Central Coast Airfest - Santa Maria Airport 2018

Inaugural Central Coast Airfest

by John Thow

It’s always fun to find new air show opportunities, so when we heard about the Central Coast Airfest, we of course had to make our way up the coast, to the Santa Maria Airport to get in on the fun and flying. We arrived for the show practice/press day, that show organizers hosted Friday the 5th. This was closed to the public, so don’t be alarmed at the lack of people in our images, they are coming, things packed up for the weekend.

2018 marks the inaugural event for the Central Coast Airfest and is the first air show in Santa Maria since 2015.

Canadian Snowbirds

Snowbirds jets taxi out to begin flight demo. J.Thow ©

Canadian Snowbirds on the ramp at Santa Maria Airport

RCAF Snowbirds lined up on the flight line at Santa Maria Airport for the Central Coast Airfest. Photo: John Thow ©

Canadian Snowbirds

Snowbirds perform a knife-edge pass. J.Thow ©

Sammy Mason Pitts Special

Sammy Mason in his Pitts Special. J.Thow ©

In their only California appearance of the year, the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds were the headline attraction. The weekend’s flying was primarily on Friday we were treated to a variety of aerobatics acts. First up, from Santa Paula, California was Sammy Mason in his Pitts Special, followed by an aerobatic comedy act performed by Eric Tucker in his Piper J3 Cub. You may recognize Eric as being the son of legendary aerobatics pilot, Sean D. Tucker, but Eric is indeed making a name for himself and carrying on the family tradition of aerobatic flight.

His act includes a wild ride in a J3 Cub, that culminates in an ambulance top landing and later a takeoff from the top of the same ambulance. It was funny that with the music and microphones turned down, we could easily hear Eric yelling from the quiet running Cub.

John Colver took to the skies in his Marine Corps SNJ, better known as “War Dog” and Jon Melby continued the aerobatics in the black, Hangar 24 Pitts biplane.

There was a nice collection of static displays including a P-40 Warhawk, and several Texans and SNJs. The Navy’s representatives arrived from Whitby Island, Washington in one of their EA-18G Growlers. The Growler is an electronic attack version of the Super Hornet that is the replacement aircraft for the aging EA-6B Prowler.

The Air Force was also on hand with a pair of A-10s and a T-38 Talon from Beale AFB. I understand that March Field was expected to send up one of their C-17s for weekend flight demos as well, but as of Friday that had yet to arrive. On our drive back down the coast late Friday afternoon, we saw a second black T-38 en route to Santa Maria as it flew low over the Santa Barbara coastline. I understand that the CAF was also sending up some warbirds for the weekend.

T-38 Talon

T-38 Talon from Beale Air Force base on the ramp at Santa Maria.

P-40 Warhawk

P-40 Warhawk from Planes of Fame made it up to Santa Maria for the inaugural event.

John Colver in War Dog

Jet pack pilots launched from the beach, over the water in first air show appearance. Photo: Luke Thow

The show set up at Santa Maria feels intimate, it is a great place to get up close with pilots and performers, and has a great small-town air show feel with some big-time attractions.

The Canadian Snowbirds did not disappoint, they delivered their always sharp, unique brand of aerial, aerobatic flying that feels much like an air-borne ballet with nine jets formed up over the airfield. We have seen the Snowbirds many times before at Salinas and Miramar, but the air space at Santa Maria lends itself particularly well to feeling closer to the action.

I’d say that the Central Coast Airfest is off to a great start, It is truly a pleasure to see a group of people working so hard to put on a quality event that is sure to make the public feel welcome. Our thanks to organizer Chris Kunkle for having us out, we look forward to the next one.

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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