Planes, Both Radio-Controlled and Manned, Put On A Show Over Santa Maria Public Airport

The Thunder Over the Valley airshow brought out not only full-size airplanes, but smaller, radio-controlled crafts as well.

The annual airshow, hosted by the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, kicked off Saturday morning with demonstration flights of the radio-controlled planes.

Some of the ground-based pilots of the planes fly real planes as well.

“My big plane is over there across the way,” said Steve DeMott, motioning towards the hangars at the Santa Maria Public Airport. DeMott, president of GREKA Refining Company, flew one of his many radio-controlled planes, a bright-orange replica of a late 1930s Rearwin Speedster. “This is like a Rearwin Speedster on steroids,” DeMott said. “It’s got like 400 percent more power than it needs. A 50-cubic-centimeter two-cycle engine makes about 3.5 horsepower for the plane. “We’ve clocked this thing at 100 miles per hour,” DeMott said.

For Mike Leggett of Morgan Hill, in Northern California, flying radio-controlled aircraft is more than a hobby. His painstakingly-detailed one-ninth scale model of a B17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber is a flying tribute to his father. “This is a replica of the one my dad was shot down in in World War II,” Leggett said. His father, 2nd Lt. Elmer Leggett, was the bombardier on the plane, which was strafed by German fighter aircraft as it returned from bombing a Berlin railway station in 1944. Pause

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  • ChaptersAmong the full-size planes that took to the skies were four military training planes from the War Birds West Air Museum in El Cajon and a Lockheed T-33 flown by Gregory Colyer of the Bay Area-based Ace Maker Air Shows.8/22/15  •  Kyle Harding  Santa Maria Times
  • Thunder Over the Valley continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The co-pilot of the plane died, while the eight other crew members survived the war in a POW camp. The elder Leggett died in 2004. Mike Leggett built the replica from scratch. The initial build took more than three years, and he adds detail every year. “You can spend a lot of money or a lot of effort,” he said. “I, in general, spend a lot of effort.”