THUNDER ROARS AGAIN OVER VALLEY

Believe it or not, the weather gurus say there is a 10-percent chance of rain today. Rain means clouds, and clouds sometimes produce lightning and thunder.

But we’re not talking about that kind of thunder today. We’re talking about the kind that has stirred the emotions and imaginations of North County folks for many years — the Thunder Over the Valley Air Show at the Santa Maria Airport today and Sunday.

There will be action and displays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days — weather permitting — and for a modest admission fee, you and your family can enjoy a microcosmic look at the state of winged flight.

Ah, but there will be so much more than airplane wings and the rumble of prop and jet engines.

This year’s featured attraction is the Army’s elite Golden Knight parachute squad. If conditions are right, the team will perform three to four times each day, giving spectators an up-close-and-personal view of the skills and courage needed to dive out of an airplane and float down on the modern equivalent of silken canopies.

Another major attraction is sure to be special guest Bill Cornick, widely considered to be the grandfather of aerobatics. Cornick will be at the controls of a Pitts biplane for his part of the show.  It’s difficult to say whether trick flying was the forerunner of combat fighter tactics, or if it was the other way around. But Cornick’s skills translate completely to the skill sets needed by military pilots during combat.

There will be just as much to see on the ground as in the air.

Nearly a dozen historic aircraft will be on display, including a Lockheed Electra, similar to the one in which Amelia Earhart attempted to circle the globe during her mid-1930s flight that ended in mystery. Despite many claims of unraveling the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance somewhere over the Pacific, the question of what happened and where she vanished remains unanswered to this day.

So much to see and so much to do. A typical Thunder Over the Valley experience — and one that was sorely missed when the show didn’t take place last year.

Money problems and a dysfunctional U.S. Congress prevented the show from going on last year, and organizers vowed to bring it back, even as they worried about the funding and other issues. The show’s restart this year is a positive sign for the city, region and for the overall economic outlook.

There are so many reasons to take yourself and/or your family out to the airport today or tomorrow. Proceeds from the two-day event help fund operations at the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, while numerous vendors at booths will use their profits to support programs and services throughout North County.

This weekend’s resurrection of the air show also is a special tribute to all branches of our military, ranging from retired veterans to fallen and wounded warriors. If you or a member of your family fall into such elite company, you are welcome to enjoy all the air show has to offer, without an admission fee.

There are folks who don’t care for such shows, in part because of the noise airplanes make. To us, those whirring props and whooshing jet engines represent the sounds of freedom — the freedom we enjoy as citizens of a great nation, and the freedom air travel has provided for tens of millions of Americans in recent years.

Carve out some time today or Sunday. Go out to the airport and enjoy the Thunder.

8/23/14  Santa Maria Times

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