Tahoe — the word instantly evokes winter skiing or summer boating for Californians, depending on the season.
Summer in Tahoe also means its time for the annual Truckee Tahoe Air Show & Family Festival, which marked its 30th anniversary in 2018.
This is one of those smaller scale airshows that has a great intimate, local vibe to it and I was looking forward to experiencing this show for the first time.
Admission and parking were free courtesy of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District, so things were off to a great start. It was only a short stroll from the car to the show, and no security checks at the gate either.
We passed quite a few vendor stalls on the way to see the ReMax hot air balloon, which was giving free rides. The airshow venue was quite picturesque, with wooded mountains surrounding the airport, providing a nice backdrop.
Walking back to show center along the static display line, fans clustered around the military aircraft that flew in for the show.
The U.S. Navy brought not one, but two of its San Diego based C-2A Greyhound carrier-capable cargo aircraft.
The 152nd Airlift Wing of the Nevada ANG sent one of its C-130 Hercules over the border to dominate the flightline.
Fast mover fans appreciated the Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-22, while the brutish Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II also drew a crowd.
As part of the opening festivities, a parade of military vehicles rumbled by, complete with a Civil Air Patrol float honoring first responders. After the tough year that Mother Nature brought upon California residents in 2017, many public events have been recognizing emergency response personnel as a theme.
The flying kicked off with a trio of Camarillo-based warbirds, a B-25 Mitchell “Executive Sweet” from the American Aeronautical Foundation and a P-51 Mustang “Man O’ War” and A6M3 Zero from the Commemorative Air Force. Being one of only five flyable Zeros in the world, it was a pleasant surprise to see such a rare aircraft at a smaller event like this one.
Anna Serbinenko, known as the Sky Dancer, took to the air next. Performing a balletic routine in her Super Decathlon, Anna is the only female aerobatic pilot in Canada. Performing since 2013, her schedule takes her across Canada with a few U.S. shows mixed in.
Barry Hancock in his T-6 Texan and Rich Perkins in the rare Yak-54 went up next.
Barry is a Utah-based warbird pilot who performs a low-level routine in his pristine bright yellow T-6.
Californian airshow performer Rich Perkins flies his Yak-54 “Russian Thunder.”
Rich, a retired USAF Lt. Colonel, is a former U-2 pilot who performs in a variety of aircraft and certainly knows how to wring the most from the Yak-54. Russian Thunder is one of only six Yak-54s produced.
World Champion aerobatic pilot Kirby Chambliss and the Red Bull Air Force were the finale act of the day, with Kirby making the improbable appear effortless as he flung his Edge 540 all over the sky.
Chambliss performs in airshows during the year when he is not training or competing in the Red Bull Air Races.
At an elevation of 5,900′, the density altitude for Tahoe Truckee Airport (KTRK) was around 9,000′ on this hot summer day, requiring the pilots to compensate for the power loss and aerodynamic effects of the thin summer air.
Kirby Chambliss arrived several days beforehand to practice his routine, while Rich Perkins ran through his performance at 9,000′ altitude back home before arriving and rehearsing locally.
There was a lot to see on static display, aside from the military aircraft. The local Cirrus dealer, Mountain Lion Aviation, had folks peering and prodding the newest models.
You could also experience the new plane smell in a Pilatus PC-12NG, Piper M600, and TBM 930 aircraft that were opened up.
A Thunder Mustang tried to tempt folks with a for sale sign, although I would probably save my allowance for the sharp-looking Maule M-7 on floats.
This was probably the first time that I’ve seen foreign warbirds outnumber domestic ones. There was a tidy Cessna L-19 Bird Dog keeping company with a Polish PZL M26 aerobatic trainer and a Romanian IAR 823 basic trainer.
The IAR 823 “Wild Thing” is a familiar sight at California airshows, though in this case it was static only because pilot Steve Stavrakakis was also the airshow announcer.
An assortment of helicopters rounded out the displays. The California Highway Patrol brought one of its new Airbus H125s, Care Flight had a Eurocopter AS350, and Rainier Heli-Lift brought its ungainly looking Kaman K-1200 K-Max.
Kaman markets the K-Max as an “aerial truck” and is the world’s first helicopter specifically designed for repetitive external lift. The unique arrangement of two intermeshing main rotors provides increased stability and controllability.
As is becoming more common with airshows, a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) Expo was held onsite. A speaker forum to hear experiences from first responders was also available.
This was a very pleasant airshow to attend, it wasn’t super crowded, had lots of good food and drink at reasonable prices, and was full of friendly fellow airshow fans. I did also mention that it was free, right?