Riverside Air Show 2012

Riverside Airport is packed into the middle of suburban Riverside, surrounded by houses on all sides.  While the main runway is just large enough to accommodate a C-17, the traffic pattern still seems more like driving directions than flying.  There is something nice about the smaller, local, airshows; there is a certain down to Earth quality about them which just is not a part of the large military airshows.

The weather this year was much less than ideal, cloudy and drizzly most the day.  The weather caused the show to start late, which provided ample time to shoot the static displays.  The whole flight line was filled with static displays, many of them warbirds.  Inside the crowd line there were numerous general aviation aircraft as well as local police equipment on static display.  The show got off to a little of an unannounced start after some remote control airplanes filled the gap between the scheduled start and the actual start.  Once the wing walking and Dr. D’s Taylorcraft aerobatics got underway, there was no doubt the show had started – too bad the weather didn’t get the notice and clear the clouds out.  Shortly thereafter, Jon Melby took off in his Pitts biplane to show that the Pitts and biplanes in general are not the most current technology but are still very capable in terms of aerobatic performance.  Doug Jardine followed Jon Melby putting his much more modern Sbach 342, a big horsepower carbon fiber monoplane, through punishment – the clouds weren’t going to keep him on the ground.  This performance also demonstrated how much punishment a person can take at the controls of an airplane; modern airplanes can be designed – and often are – to be more capable in maneuvering load factors than well trained pilots.  Next John Collver took off in his T-6 “War Dog” to perform maneuvers which appeared lazy in nature after Doug Jardine’s performance – even though the maneuvers he performed are considered advanced training.

At this point a Riverside Police MD-500 helicopter put on an aerial demonstration, most of which seemed like a demonstration of helicopter performance rather than standard police helicopter flying.  The helicopter then joined in on a mock police chase around the runway and taxiways, finally picking up SWAT officers and a police dog to apprehend the mock suspect.  After all the chasing excitement, there was a reasonably large fire on the other side of the runway – a second MD-500 with a water dropping attachment came in to put the fire out.  After the fire was out, the two helicopters performed some loose formation flying.

After all the police excitement had settled down, five T-6’s took to the air to put on a formation flying demonstration.  They flew a normal traffic pattern and as they came around on each lap they were in a different formation.  While the wing walking demonstration was getting into position at the end of the runway, a L-39 Albatross came in to make a handful of reasonably high speed banana passes for the crowd before disappearing.  The schedule called for a F-16 to perform the high speed passes, but with weather delays the crowd was given a L-39 on a seemingly more flexible schedule.  By this point, the weather was starting to clear – ever so slightly.  The Just In Time Skydivers climbed to altitude while Jon Melby and Doug Jardine went back up to give the crowd another glimpse into the body-straining life of an aerobatic pilot.  The performances put on by those two were equally impressive as their earlier performances.  The Just In Time Skydivers jumped, still limited by the weather.  John Collver again took to the air, and while the maneuvers were seemingly easy I’d venture a guess there was nothing easy about them.

While John Collver was performing, the distinct sound of jet engines a long way down the crowd line could be heard.  Scanning around to see where the sound was coming from showed the P-38 Honey Bunny pushing back from the rope as well as the A-10 taxiing out.  As the two aircraft taxied out for the heritage flight, the crowd got a glimpse of the ultra-rare P-38 Lightning.  The A-10 and P-38 spent a fair amount of time forming up on their own and working out the details of the heritage flight, in the meantime Tim Weber went up in his Geico-sponsored MXS to give Doug Jardine a run for his money in the aerobatic sense – Tim’s performance did not disappoint.  The A-10 and P-38 performed their heritage flight, with each aircraft putting on a little something special at the end of the heritage flight.  As the heritage flight landed and pulled off the runway, a group of warbirds commenced their takeoff roll.  The group included a Hellcat, Bearcat, Wildcat, and a Mustang.  The flight of four took up an orbit around the airport, all nearly evenly spaced for a seemingly continuous sound of glorious piston engine power.  This spacing allowed for excellent photo opportunities of all the airplanes, never having to compromise and decide quickly which aircraft to shoot.  The Mustang seemed to be lagging behind the group of Grumman cats, setting up for an awesome pass; the mustang came in for a low firewall pass much like a pilot would do down a German airfield during World War II.  The whole experience was amazing, especially the sound of the Merlin engine.

Depending on how you look at it, the last performer in the show or the first departure of the show was the C-17.  It was really amazing to see such a large aircraft on the runway after so many smaller aircraft had been flying throughout the day.  The C-17 was so large, it had to back up the crosswind runway to the main runway, and then back up the main runway to the approach end.  There was not enough room at the airport for the C-17 to taxi around like a normal airplane.  The C-17 didn’t even hold the brakes to wait for the four Pratt PW2000s to spool to full speed, the acceleration was nothing dramatic, a slight pull back, and the behemoth took to the air.  A couple passes later and the C-17 was headed back home to March ARB, just a couple miles away.  As is the case with most airshows, there is a push to get home after the show is over so sticking around after the show “ends” is quite the treat to see all the static aircraft leave.  The Cessna 195 you were admiring on the ground has to takeoff and return sometime, might as well see it take off, right?  Occasionally the pilots would come back around after taking off for another pass or two; the Lightning based at Chino had only a five minute flight home and if you were up in a P-38 you’d take two more trips through the pattern too.

Overall the Riverside airshow was a fun time, even if the weather was less than ideal. I’ll be going next year for sure; there are just too many cool things to see at this show.  Thanks are due to all the people who worked to make the Riverside airshow a success.

 

By Matt Shinavar

 

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