Many eyes were in the skies across the regions this past weekend as the California Capital Air Show took flight Saturday and Sunday at Mather Airport and roared across the skies of Rancho Cordova, Folsom and parts of El Dorado Hills.
Presented by Sacramento County and the City of Rancho Cordova, the 2023 version of this classic event marked the first time it returned to its full capacity since the COVID-19 pandemic. After two years of toned-down features, organizers turned up the heat this year to bring the event back in all its powerful glory that was celebrated across the community in the days leading up to the show and right down to when the final engine shut off Sunday afternoon.
By the end of the weekend, 105,000 people passed through the gates to attend the air show, according to Darcy Brewer, California Capital Air Show Executive Director. The popularity amongst vendors and particpants rose as well, spanning 204 acres of total event space.
“The feeling of bringing the Airshow back to full capacity for the first time since 2019 is indescribable,” said Brewer. “It was a perfect weekend, made even more memorable by seeing the joy and excitement the event brought to the Sacramento region’s families and aviation enthusiasts.”
The festivities all started with a well-attended community celebration in Village Green Park Friday night that welcomed the members of the United State Air Force Thunderbirds and were presented with a key to the city by Rancho Cordova Mayor Linda Budge. The event gave residents of all ages a chance to meet and mingle with some of the nation’s elite pilots and their members of their support team.
Established in 2004, the California Capital Airshow 501(c)3 plans and operates the exciting, family-friendly annual event designed to honor the Sacramento region’s rich aviation heritage and veterans while using the power and magic of flight to inspire young people. CCA gives back to the community through scholarships, charitable group donations and exciting educational youth programming throughout the year.
Photos by Bill Sullivan
Saturday morning, the gates to Mather Airport opened up and the tarmac was soon bustling with activity on the ground several hours before any planes were set to take flight. Although the skies were quiet, there were still plenty of wide eyes throughout the morning as fans of all ages got an up-close look at numerous aircraft from past to current. They event had the opportunity to climb up to look into the cockpits of some of the machines, or get their photo taken as Captain Peter “Maverick” Mitchell.
This year’s air show opened on National Girls in Aviation Day, which provided organizers to host a very special segment of the air show for young female aviation enthusiasts.
The morning event provided an opportunity for young ladies and their parents to learn about the vast possibilities that aviation, aerospace, and related career fields offer with a special education tour at the airpark.
Each tour stop offered unique glimpse into various aspects of the aviation world. Participants had the privilege of learning from accomplished women leaders in the field who provided a comprehensive overview of their careers. The tour also included demonstrations by a number of organizations on site including the crew from Travis Air Force Base, Beale, UPS, the California National Guard, Mach 5 Aviation, Metro Fire and more.
“The greatest thrill for us this weekend is knowing that we have inspired young people to dream big and explore the world of aviation and STEM,” said Terrence McNamara, CCA Board Chairman.
One of the new highlights of this year’s event was a ‘Cold War Legacy’ pop-up museum, which honored Mather Air Force Base’s integral role in the Cold War and efforts such as the Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam War. Attendees took in informational exhibits and were able to get up-close to Cold War-era aircraft throughout the event including Colonel Douglas MacArthur’s “Connie.”
As the day reached the noon hour, the skies came to life as numerous aircraft took to the ski for a series of special demonstrations that ranged from breathtaking to graceful and a whole lot of education during all of them as the emcees explained each and every detail and purpose of the machines as they roared through the air above the crowds.
A few of the demonstrations included the aerobatics of Eric Tucker’s 1941 J3 Club as well as demonstrations by the Beechcraft F33C Bonanza, which is one of just 118 planes of its type to be built. From there, the skies continued to road with demonstrations by the A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as the Warthog.
The U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet then took to the ski followed by the heritage flight of the F8F Bearcat, the C-17 Globemaster III, the Dragon Lady and more. On both days, the action in the skies climaxed with the thrilling USAF Thunderbirds Team taking to the sky as they performed a number of formation flights, inverted flights and more, uniting speed and might with grace and beauty for the crowd.
Throughout the entire two day event, air show volunteers made sure parking was abundant and easy for attendees, welcoming everyone with kind words and a smile as they arrived at the entrance. This event is one of the few around where parking remains free without an extra charge. When it came to acitivity inside the gates, food and beverage lines were well managed and moving swiftly.
“We are especially grateful to the over one thousand volunteers who work tirelessly to produce this thrilling and meaningful community event every year,” said Darcy Brewer. “We simply couldn’t do it without them.”
Established in 2004, the California Capital Airshow 501(c)3 plans and operates the exciting, family-friendly annual event designed to honor the Sacramento region’s rich aviation heritage and veterans while using the power and magic of flight to inspire young people.
CCA gives back to the community through STEM scholarships, charitable group donations, and exciting educational youth programming throughout the year. For more information, please visit the California Capital Airshow website.