A century of Marine Corps aviation will be celebrated during the 25th annual Thunder Over the Valley Air Show this weekend in Santa Maria, highlighted by a rare appearance of an Osprey which can take off and land like a helicopter, but fly at high speed like an airplane.
Also planned is a demonstration and a mock battle between World War II fighter planes — an American P-51 Mustang and a Japanese Zero.
The three-day event kicks off Friday evening with a welcome dinner that will be followed by a pair of air shows Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Maria Public Airport.
In past years, the event recognized other branches of the military, so organizers decided that the 2012 air show should honor the Marine Corps, which is marking 100 years of aviation this year, according to Mike Geddry, president of the sponsoring Santa Maria Museum of Flight.
As part of that celebration, the event includes a demonstration by an MV-22 Osprey, which takes off and lands like a helicopter, but then can convert to a turboprop airplane capable of high-speed, high-altitude flight. “For us to have that Osprey come in and do that demonstration, that’s every special,” Geddry said. The aircraft reportedly is among the most sought-after acts for air shows. In fact, Geddry noted that among 350 shows organized by civilians, Ospreys are set to attend just 22 this year, including Santa Maria’s. “That’s pretty good,” Geddry added.
Air show gates will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The show takes place on the southwest side of the airport, with access available off Blosser Road near Foster Road.
Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and $3 for children ages 7 to 12. A family pack, for two adults and two children, costs $20.
Military members and their dependents will be admitted for free.
Organizers have reluctantly raised the admission price for 2012. “The price on fuel’s gotten so high that we’ve had to make decisions,” Geddry said.
Parking for the air show remains free, he added.
Due to federal security regulations, coolers and large handbags are prohibited from the show.
Both military and civilian aerial performances are planned along with a number of aircraft on static display.
Aircraft lined up to attend include an F/A-18 Hornet, Spitfire, T-6 and SNJ trainers, Steerman, Hellcat and P-51 Mustang, according to the organizers.
Vendors will sell food, drinks and air show-related merchandise. A beer garden also is planned.
On Friday night, the Museum of Flight will host a “Fly-in Meet and Greet” dinner for visiting pilots and crews at the museum, 3015 Airpark Drive. The public is invited to attend the dinner at 6:00 p.m. Tickets will cost $12, and reservations are available by calling the museum at 922-8758.
Saturday night, a military and veterans honor dinner is scheduled.
For more information, go to www.smmof.org.