THUNDER OVER THE VALLEY KICKS OFF TODAY

Golden Knights to showcase aerial maneuvers during weekend show

See the show

Thunder Over the Valley Air Show runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Sunday at the Santa Maria Public Airport with displays by the Golden Knights at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. both days.

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 www.smmof.org.

Yellow and black parachutes dotted the Orcutt sky Friday in an impressive display of aerial maneuvers, as the United States Army Parachute Team — the Golden Knights — gave a small audience a peek at its upcoming show.  The Golden Knights will highlight the 26th annual Thunder Over the Valley Air Show this weekend at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

Sgt. David Flynn said the team will perform a mass formation, followed by four different maneuvers, one of which involves a cutaway where someone will cut away a parachute and initiate emergency procedures. The maneuvers involve a ton of skill but also a lot of trust.

“What you do is a teamwork job. Doing formations in the sky, trusting everyone to be in the right spot and do the right thing, because it’s just like in the Army (where) we work in squads and sections. You’ve got to be able to trust your teammate,” he said.

Pfc. Jason Wenger agreed with the teamwork aspect, adding that team members are there for each other for support and safety. Though strong teamwork increases safety, there are still other challenges.

For instance, the Golden Knights are on the road 270 days a year, and most of them have families, like Pfc. Wenger who has a wife and 2-year-old child at home. For Pfc. Wenger, family understands the significance of what he does.  “It feels great to be the connection between America’s Army and the audience,” he said.

For David Echeverry becoming a Golden Knight fulfilled a dream. He saw them when he was a freshman in high school and told his parents that was what he wanted to do in life.  “They told me I can do anything I set my mind to. So now that I’m actually doing it, I get the most thrills from seeing the looks on little kids faces because I used to be one of them,” Echeverry said.

The team was formed in 1959 by 19 “Airborne” soldiers from various military units. The team was officially recognized, designated and activated as the U.S. Army Parachute Team in 1961. The Golden Knights have performed more than 15,000 shows across the country and in 48 countries.

Grover Cox, one of the show’s organizers, said they’ve been trying to get the Golden Knights for the last four years.  “We’re excited to have them, Cox said. “It’s really a great to get an opportunity to meet the Knights.”

The air show is back after an absence last year as a result of budget restraints, but even though there was no show last year there was a lot of planning.  “We’ve been planning this since last year. These things take a year to put together. We’re already laying the groundwork for next year right now,” Cox said.

Along with the Golden Knights, the air show will feature static displays including several historic planes, and food and vendor booths. The show will also play host to special guest Bill Cornick, the grandfather of aerobatics, who will pilot a Pitts biplane for the show.

August 23, 2014   •  Santa Maria Times – Shelly Cone Contributing Writer

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