Attendees, flight crews enjoy show

Airplane enthusiasts and families with children eagerly toured the planes on display Saturday at the Thunder Over the Valley air show, walking through cargo craft and climbing into cockpits.

Likewise, military members standing beside the planes and helicopters that they fly were excited to be at the show, explaining their work to wide-eyed youngsters at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

Mike Geddry Sr., Santa Maria Museum of Flight president and air show organizer, said that few planes took to the air Saturday because of various issues that kept aircraft on the ground.  However, Geddry estimated that 4,000 attendees turned out to take in the annual show, viewing planes on static display, sampling food from vendors and checking out informational booths.

About 40 aircraft, some based as far away as Canada, sat on the asphalt Saturday on the south side of the airfield.

The air show continues from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. today with more flight demonstrations and events. To reach the air show, take Highway 135 to Foster Road and turn right on South Blosser Road.  Admission costs $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children 7 to 12 years old, $15 for families and free for military personnel with identification.

Geddry said that one plane expected to fly Saturday had mechanical troubles. All C-17s were grounded because of the crash of a similar plane in Alaska during a training exercise, and the national Coast Guard commander pulled all Coast Guard aircraft from air shows and other public demonstrations.

This year’s Thunder Over the Valley paid special tribute to the Coast Guard.

The Santa Maria show is not about putting planes in the air or making money, Geddry noted.  “It’s about honoring our military and veterans,” he said.

A “Seahawk” Naval helicopter out of San Diego drew the attention of several people, including a little boy who sat in the cockpit, fiddling with the aircraft’s instruments and asking the sailors questions.

One of the crew, Chief John Myrbeck, said Seahawks are typically used for surveillance, and that particular helicopter was involved in training.  Myrbeck helped monitor the children as they explored the aircraft.  “Some of the kids get pretty amped up,” he said.

Myrbeck said he attended air shows as a child with his father, who was in the Air Force, and still enjoys going to them as an adult.  He said many attendees at Saturday’s event were appreciative, thanking military members for their service.

A C-130 cargo plane with the Kentucky Air Guard was packed inside with visitors.  Lt. Col. Rick Shelton said that while that plane was built in 1991, C-130s were first manufactured in 1954 and are the military plane to be the longest in production.  The planes carry out a variety of tasks, he said, including dropping food and equipment.  “This one’s probably going to Afghanistan in a couple months,” Shelton said.

Another hit with those who came to the air show was a sleek-looking F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet out of Lemoore Naval Air Station.

The Gibson family from Santa Maria attended their first Thunder Over the Valley air show on Saturday.  Andy Gibson’s toddler son hurried ahead with mom in tow to look at more planes, as Andy explained the family interest in planes.  “I’m an aerospace engineer, so he has an interest by default,” Gibson said.  Gibson, who is normally involved in the design phase of planes, said he enjoys seeing the finished products.

The Hollon family from Santa Maria also attended the air show for the first time.  “I think that’s really neat that it’s hands-on for the kids,” said Breann Hollon, adding the display provided a good opportunity to teach her children about history.

Posted in Local on Sunday, August 29, 2010 12:15 am

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