Story and photos by Steve Lewis, first published in Photorecon.net in 2020
Wings over Camarillo continued to step it up again this year as they introduced pyrotechnics to this year’s event. The show was held under beautiful skies and amazing temperatures on August 17th and 18th, 2019.
The day prior to the show kicking off was arrival day. One of the highlights for me was the arrival of one of these static displays. A F/A-18E Super Hornet from VFA-151 Vigilantes, being piloted by LT. Joe ‘Jamboy’ Kirksey of VFA-97 Warhawks, broke overhead in preparation for landing. Along with being able to hang out with Jamboy and some of the other pilots from VFA-97 again, he brought a very special aircraft with him. The aircraft, belonging to VFA-151, had been dedicated to LT. Charles ‘JTACZ’ Walker who had recently passed away during a training accident. Jamboy had just recently returned from a combat cruise where he was at sea for over seven months defending our nation. Growing up, he had volunteered at the Commemorative Air Force at the Camarillo Airport, and it was here at the airport that he earned his initial pilot’s license. Throughout the weekend, Jamboy was proof for those in attendance that if you have a love for aviation and for flying, you could start that dream right here at the Camarillo Airport, and one day could be flying fighter jets.
The show kicked off each morning with the American Flag being parachuted in by a member of the United States Air Force Wings of Blue parachute team, who had jumped out of the C-47 Skytrain ‘D-Day Doll’. Jason Somes, Wing Leader for the CAF’s Southern California Wing based here at Camarillo Airport, flew behind it in the P-51D ‘Man O’ War’ as the jumper descended towards the crowd. Jason later flew the museum’s F8F Bearcat during the show, as well as his new red and black Mig 17 Fresco. The Wings of Blue conducted a larger jump later in the day with several parachutists demonstrating their precision to land on specified spots along the crowd line.
There were several trainers and experimental aircraft that conducted low passes down the show line during the day, with some showing off their tight formation work in T-34 Mentors, T-6 Texans, and Navions. The Lightning Formation Team, in their various RVs, performed a demonstration of both larger formation work and had a few solos make opposing passes. The Condor Squadron made multiple passes each day as well showing off different formations with each pass. An AH-1 Cobra with the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation made a few passes daily and was selling rides as well. Jason Somes in his newly acquired Mig-17 was one of the other highlights of the show for me. He made several passes each day in afterburner showing off the aircraft’s sleek wings and high-speed low-altitude capabilities.
One large pyrotechnic was detonated as Sammy Mason was ending his aerobatic routine in his Pitts S2. This created a large smoke ring that Sammy then flew through on the downside of a loop he executed. Also providing aerobatics were Vicky Benzing in her red Stearman, Judy Phelps in her Pitts, and John Collver in his SNJ/AT6 ‘Wardog’. The Wings of Blue conducted a larger jump later in the day with several parachutists demonstrating their precision to land on a specified spot on the airfield.
Along with the show in the air, the show is well known for the classic car show where entrants can have their car’s picture taken in front of a vintage aircraft each morning. There were many vendors selling a wide variety of novelty items, a kid’s corner with small rides and bounce houses, a Veteran’s booth where you could sit and speak to Veteran’s about their experiences while serving our great nation, and static displays scattered amongst the show goers.
Another unique experience that this show offers is the ability to take a ride in a helicopter prior to the show’s start and again after the show concludes. Orbic Helicopters is based on the airport and was offering rides at a discounted rate throughout the weekend. These rides were VERY reasonably priced and several people I had recommended take advantage of these prices were thrilled with their experiences and thanked me afterwards. It’s a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the air show area, as well as the surrounding hills and farmlands of Camarillo. If you didn’t get a chance to take advantage this time around, they should be available next year as well. But why wait? If you’d like to go flying before that, visit http://orbichelicopters.com for more information. They offer a wide variety of services to meet your needs.
Several warbirds took to the skies each day with pyrotechnics exploding on the ground during their demonstrations. For the morning portion, these warbirds included a B-25 Mitchell (Executive Sweet), a P-51D Mustang (Lady Alice), a P-38 Lightning (Skidoo), a P-63 King Cobra (Pretty Polly), and the Planes of Fame’s P-47G Thunderbolt. In the afternoon, the warbirds conducted an air-to-air demonstration as well as mock bombing and strafing runs. Those aircraft included: The Planes of Fame’s F4U Corsair, the CAF’s F8F Bearcat, F6F Hellcat (Minsi III), P-51D (Man O’ War), A6M Zero, and the world’s last surviving PBJ-1J Mitchell, also belonging to the CAF at Camarillo. The final pass executed by this group was a formation of the fighters. As they reached show center, a wall of fire erupted in front of the crowd to the cheers of all in attendance.
The show was a success once again. Between the excellent weather, good light for photography, great line up (especially with the added pyro), and of course all the great people I spent time with from the CAF and VFA-97, this show is a must hit every year for me.
A special thank you to Ken Obi of Orbic Helicopters, Linda Erlich, Richard Silva, and all of the great people at the CAF for helping make this another very memorable year!