Air show raises millions for local charities — General Aviation News

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Brad Wursten performs in his new custom MX2, finishing his season at the 2022 California International Airshow Salinas.

2022 marked the 41st anniversary of the California International Airshow Salinas, one of the most successful air shows to support charitable organizations in North America.

Of all the air shows I attend each year, this is the only one with “International” in the title. The international aspect of the event, held in October at Salinas Municipal Airport (KSNS) was diluted with the early ending of the season for the Canadian Snowbirds jet team.

To the show organizers credit, they did an admirable job backfilling their headliner act with the addition of Red Bull Air Force pilots Kirby Chambliss and Aaron Fitzgerald, who took to the air several times during the day to thrill the crowds.

Five-time U.S. National Aerobatics Champion Kirby Chambliss performed in his Red Bull Zivko Edge 540.
Aaron Fitzgerald goes inverted in the Red Bull MBB Bo-105 helicopter.

Ukrainian-born pilot Anna Serbinenko was on hand for her second appearance in Salinas, performing in her Super Decathlon “Sky Dancer.”

Anna Serbinenko performs in “Sky Dancer.”

Jon Melby, Brad Wursten, and Eric Tucker rounded out the slate of civilian acts at the show.

Jon Melby performs in his Aviat S-1-11B. FearBOSS is Jon’s fear management company.

Jon and Brad flew their separate acts and then performed as a duo.

Brad Wursten takes his new MX2 vertical during his performance. The MX2 is rated for -/+12G loads.
Jon Melby (left) and Brad Wursten (right) make a formation pass during the air show.

Eric did triple duty, performing dead-stick aerobatics, a comedy act resulting in landing on a moving vehicle, and later taking off from that vehicle and performing aerobatics.

Eric Tucker performs a graceful “dead stick” (engine off) aerobatics routine in his 1941 Piper Cub.
Eric Tucker shows off after successfully landing on this former ambulance in his 1941 Piper Cub.

As the show was held the same weekend as Fleet Week in San Francisco, that posed some challenges in scheduling military assets, so the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Demo Team was set to perform in Salinas instead of San Francisco (San Francisco got the USN F-35C Demo instead).

Sadly that demo would not happen for me during the Saturday show as a fast-moving marine layer nixed the F-35’s departure from nearby Monterey Airport (KMRY).

A Pilatus PC-12 departs during the 2022 California International Airshow Salinas, ferrying Major Kristin “Beo” Wolfe to Monterey Airport for her F-35A Lightning II flight demo.

Sunday attendees were more fortunate to see the full demo and subsequent Heritage Flight with a P-51 Mustang.

This P-51D Mustang, named “Comfortably Numb,” was owned and flown by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd for many years.

The show finale on both days was the ever-popular “Wall of Fire” pyro event. Interestingly enough, on Saturday, even with the cancellation of the F-35 demo, they still had to set off the pyro charges for safety reasons. It was too dangerous to leave overnight, so the announcer had the fans do a countdown to the big boom.

The “Wall of Fire” detonates as the show’s finale.

Some of the non-flying acts included AFTERSHOCK, a 1940 Ford fire truck powered by two jet engines capable of 400 miles per hour. A few monster truck demos helped fill out the schedule.

Ready, Set, GO! Jon Melby races his Aviat S-1-11B against the 400-mph AFTERSHOCK Jet Fire Truck.

Only a few current military aircraft were onsite for static display, ranging from a bulbous Royal Canadian Air Force Bombardier CT-142 Gonzo training aircraft at one end of the tarmac to the NAS Lemoore MH-60 Knighthawk search and rescue helicopter at the other end.

A visiting RCAF Bombardier CT-142, this aircraft is used for navigation training. The extended nose earned this aircraft the nickname “Gonzo.”

Several civilian organizations were on hand with static displays including both the Monterey County Sheriff’s and Cal Fire.

This is one of 12 new Sikorsky Firehawks that Cal Fire has ordered to replace its fleet of firefighting Hueys. An integrated 1,000 gallon belly tank replaces the classic Bambi Bucket.

First held in 1981, the air show has raised more than $8 million for local charities, and had an economic impact of about $4.4 million for Salinas Municipal Airport.

Planning has already begun for the 2023 show, which is slated for Oct. 7-8.

More Photos From The Show

Jon Melby makes a pass in his Aviat S-1-11B.
A Cal Fire Sikorsky Firehawk on final approach for a day of static display at the air show. The landing gear on a Firehawk is taller than a typical Blackhawk to accommodate the 1,000-gallon belly tank.
Eric Tucker waits to takeoff for another performance in his 1941 Piper Cub. He performed three different acts during the show.
The Kentucky Air National Guard upgraded to the new C-130J Super Hercules last year, with a glass cockpit, more efficient engines, and a stretched fuselage for additional payload capacity.
Cal Fire aircraft depart the Salinas airport to head back to base. In 1993, CAL FIRE acquired OV-10A Broncos from the Department of Defense and operate 14 of them for wildfire air attack use.
Introduced in 1977, the robust Fairchild A-10C Thunderbolt II has survived many attempts at retirement. Good news for Warthog fans, bad news for enemy combatants.
This beautifully restored Aero L-39C Albatros has to be the nicest example I have ever seen. More than 2,900 of these Czech trainers were produced, 207 are registered in the U.S.
A Warner Sportster kit plane. Designed for taller and wider pilots, this design was introduced at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2008.
Designed by ex-TWA captain Tom Cassutt in 1951, the Cassutt Special was designed to compete in Formula One air races.
This beautifully restored 1992 McDonnell Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk was recently listed for sale for $3.2 million.
Time to go home for this Twin Beech.

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