My search for a July airshow found me in Grass Valley, high in California’s Gold Country. Located at the Nevada County Air Park (KGOO), the Grass Valley Airshow is a very friendly and intimate event with a nice local feel. With the tree-lined runway a scant 50 yards from the crowd line, there wasn’t a bad seat to be had by anyone.
Marketed as an airshow, there were no performances per se, just a series of fly-bys, both solo and formation.
Pilots had a fair amount of latitude in what they could do, resulting in multiple photo passes by some and disappointing single passes by others. Low and slow, low and fast, smoke on or off, you get the general idea.
Both the West Coast Ravens and local T-6 Texan pilots conducted fly-bys comprised of four aircraft.
The American Aeronautical Foundation brought its B-25 Mitchell “Executive Sweet” to provide paid rides, which kept the vintage bomber busy all day. A Robinson R44 was also on hand for those preferring a helicopter flight experience.
I was surprised to see there were two Sea Furies on hand. They performed solo and formation fly-bys before departing for home. One, belonging to Sanders Aeronautics, added a demonstration of the company’s distinctive wingtip smoke generators.
One unexpected treat was seeing a Culver TD2C-1 target drone for the first time. This diminutive, bright red-orange aircraft was flown towards the gunnery range by radio control towards certain doom, although a cockpit was provided for ferry and training flights. Fully restored, this sole flying example is a very unique warbird indeed.
“Goldfinger,” a modified Reno race-ready P-51 Mustang, was relegated to static display after developing oil system issues after arriving.
Joining Goldfinger was a wide assortment of interesting planes on static display, ranging from the C-47 “Betsy’s Biscuit Bomber” to a Just SuperSTOL kitplane.
There was a good balance of warbirds to vintage aircraft, including an N3N-3 trainer and Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon. Uncommon examples interspersed among the static aircraft were a 1940 Porterfield Collegiate, a futuristic Quickie Q200, a Polish PZL M26 Iskierka, and an Excalibur kitplane.
KGOO is also home to Cal Fire’s Grass Valley Air Attack Base, which held an Open House in conjunction with the airshow. Luckily wildfire season remained calm on this Saturday, allowing the aircraft to remain on display duty for most of the day.
The base is home to Tankers 88 and 89, two ex-military S-2T Trackers modified to carry 1,200 gallons of water and retardant and upgraded with turboprop powerplants.
Air Attack 230 is also based here, an ex-military OV-10 Bronco used for sizing up a fire, spotting hazards like power lines, and directing attacks by the tankers and helicopters.
Skydivers, a veteran’s parade, R/C model demos, food booths, bounce houses, and vendors rounded out the Grass Valley Airshow experience. A Brewfest and concert provided a good excuse to stay after the flying ended.
The airshow is hosted by the Golden Empire Flying Association with proceeds funding scholarships and airport improvements.