Army’s Parachuting Team Featured Attraction This Weekend

2014-08-18T00:00:00Z 2014-08-18T20:25:22Z Air show thunders back after hiatusJennifer Best Santa Maria Times

Thunder Over the Valley runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 23 and 24 at the Santa Maria Public Airport.  Admission is $12 for adults, $3 for children ages 7 to 12, or $25 for a family of four. Children 6 and younger and members of the military are admitted free of charge. For more information about the event or the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, visit

History, pride and aeronautical prowess will roar to life Saturday and Sunday when warbirds descend upon Santa Maria Public Airport for the Santa Maria Museum of Flight’s 26th Thunder Over the Valley Air Show. The air show returns with renewed vigor and excitement after a one-year hiatus.

“Our mission encompasses not only the historical side of aviation, but honoring our fallen and wounded warriors, and helping support current troops, our veterans and their families,” said Santa Maria Museum of Flight Chief Executive Officer Mike Geddry Sr.

The annual event attracts some 7,000 to 8,000 visitors, Geddry said. Last year’s sequestration and budgetary challenges brought dozens of air shows to a halt, he wrote in a letter last year, but renewed community support, a return of full service in the Federal Aviation Administration and affected military branches, and a rebounding economy have breathed new life into the show.

This year’s featured attraction is the Army’s Golden Knight Parachuting Team that will make three to four jumps daily.  “It took us 10 years to get ’em,” said Geddry, a former airborne trooper who hooked team with a personal plea during the International Council of Air Shows convention.

If weather permits, Geddry said, the 19-member team representing the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions will perform a special jump Friday between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. The 45-minute jump will feature a practice succession with a tandem jump including either Santa Maria City Councilman Jack Boysen or County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino.

In Saturday’s opening jump, paratroopers will pass a baton among themselves before handing it over to a select member of local government upon landing.

Thunder Over the Valley Air Show is also honored to host special guest Bill Cornick, the grandfather of aerobatics, who will pilot a Pitts biplane for the show.  “Bill Cornick is a former U.S. Air Force pilot who, in his everyday life, helps military pilots learn fighter tactics and acrobatics,” Geddry said.

Static displays will feature 10 historic aircraft including a Lockheed Model 10 Electra like the one Amelia Earhart flew to infamy in 1937, one or two military aircraft on training missions, a car show, Budweiser beer garden and other vendors

“We’ll have an overabundance of food — we always do — including hot dogs, tri-tip barbecue, Boy Scouts cooking and doing root beer floats. There’s a ton of stuff going on,” Geddry said.

Proceeds from the air show support museum operation and special events including barbecues, military welcomes and others throughout the year in support of military, both active and retired.

“When you’re deployed, whether in combat or peacetime, there’s a certain amount of loneliness, homesickness, you get,” Geddry said. “We give them a piece of Santa Maria that sticks with them not just while they’re deployed, but their entire lives.

“They’re treated not as strangers, but as one of our own,” he added. “That goes a long way for the guys and girls in the military. It seems like it only takes a day here for them to realize this has become their second home, a place they can come, visit with people, be thanked for their service, be treated like they’re family.”

August 18, 2014  •  Santa Maria Times  Jennifer Best