CABLE AIR SHOW – January 7th & 8th 2012

Celebrating its 37th annual event visitors to California’s first Air show of the year descended upon the friendly Cable Airport in their droves under sunny skies and calm winds-the early morning fog thankfully clearing allowing the throng of visiting aircraft safe and happy landings!


As the enthusiastic spectators claimed their vantage points along the crowd line (around 20,000 filing thru the gates over the two days) show announcer Steve Stavrakakis began to welcome all with his charming, humorous and knowledgeable style as the flying participants began their routines at 10am. As a first timer myself to the show, though a stalwart of major air show’s I wondered what would be in store and how this event would live up to what I was used to? An air show without loud and large F-16’s and C-130’s littering the skies was a rare occasion for me! One of the first to smoke the clear blue heavens was veteran aerobatic ace Rob Harrison “The Tumbling Bear” who put on an enthralling display in his all yellow Zlin 50LS-Rob attending the Zlin Air School’s advanced aerobatics school before buying the aircraft many years ago! After landing and producing some smoking doughnuts on the runway he taxied back to his parking place in front of the control tower to a huge applause from the large and appreciative crowd-a well earned bottle of water cooling the pilot down; “This is going to be my last year on the show circuit, I’ll probably do around eight events or so then I’ll hang my helmet up!” He’ll be missed for sure on the air show circuit. At a mere 72 years of age and around 20 years of aerobatic capers it may be time to sit back in comfort and watch the youngsters do their thing though taking nothing away from his obvious flying skills which he shows to perfection.

Throughout the day show-goers were able to climb aboard a number of joy-ride aircraft on offer, the choices being a Harvard, Tiger Moth and Cessna 172’s amongst others…one of these being the remarkable and large 1930 New Standard D25 vintage biplane in the hands of ex’ USMC and ANG pilot Mark Carpentiero who seemed to be airborne more often than not and enjoying every minute as did his passengers! Probably one of Business Aviation’s best known pilots and company owners is Clay Lacy. If you ever saw a major film from the early 70’s that included stunning aerial filming then the chances it was done by Clay Lacy and probably from one of his well known LearJets, Clay, apparently, being the first to base an executive jet at LA’s Van Nuy’s airport in the mid 60’s where jets now outnumber piston aircraft. Clay was once again in attendance at Cable with his big orange single engine turboprop Pilatus PC-6 which he has owned for around 40 years now; “I just love flying the Pilatus and have had some amazing adventures in it during that time-flying at air shows is so enjoyable and it’s a great way to spend time away from an office desk!” reported Clay after his first display of the show and in between the constant demands of fellow pilots and enthusiastic spectators constantly trying to get his attention.

After seeing one of aviations more elder pilots in action crowds were shown the undeniable skills of Sammy Mason who put his 1941 Boeing B-75 Stearman through its paces-waving to the gathered crowds during his spirited take-off runs. At just 17 years of age, Sammy threw the machine around in great style-nobody would have guessed that this was not a Stearman specialist who had been displaying for years and years, no, this was just a young man who was seemingly born to fly and was obviously loving every moment at the controls-watch out for Sammy during the year in his Stearman at other events-its not to be missed!

Keeping an air show crowd entertained is not all about the flying-it’s also about the knowledge and entertaining style of the show commentary that can often be the downfall of some events-fortunately we had Steve Stavrakakis behind the mic’ for the weekend. A pilot himself and having also built his own plane, Steve knows pretty much everything about sport and leisure flying and would be the obvious choice to guide the already clued-up and not so knowing spectators thru the day’s activities in fine style as he did throughout the weekend. Steve also helping out with Frank “Dr D” Donnelly’s spellbinding aerial display in his Swick converted 1964 Taylorcraft.

The handsome machine differs from the usual 64hp powered aircraft by the installation of a 120hp Lycoming power plant, clipped-wings and the removal of the passenger seat-the know fully aerobatic Taylorcraft keeping the show-goers on their feet as “Dr D“ rolled and looped his smokey way through the blueness before performing a dead-stick landing and silently taxiing right up to Steve’s outstretched hand on the flight line-wonderful stuff it was too!

It was pleasing to see a Grumman warbird in action (as it always is!)- this time in the hands of Carter “Lightning McTeeter” Teeters. The Commemorative Air Force run Wildcat remains in its glossy Royal Navy colors-the gloss making cleaning a lot easier amongst other things. There was hope that it could have been painted in US Navy markings but the Navy wouldn’t come up with the funding required so it has stayed in the RN colors for many years. Carter made a number of nice low passes before bringing the beast back to dry land. The only thing he was worried about afterwards was if he would get back to work in time-being an Alaska Airlines pilot trainer, his time much in demand!

For some the lunch break allowed time to spend their hard earned cash amongst the hoard of interesting sales stalls though flying continued as local radio-controlled enthusiasts gave their pride and joy some air-time in front of the crowds who seemed to enjoy the occasion. Some magnificent scale models were on show including a large P-47 Thunderbolt and also a handsome custom built jet powered machine, all of which took to the air.

A surprising and rare arrival was that of Gorilla Air’s (Denver based) LearJet 28 during the day. I was probably the only person (other than Clay Lacy!) to notice how rare this machine was as only five were ever made! It was to be the longer range (and wingleted) version of the LearJet 25 but the performance didn’t live up to expectations and with an order book almost empty it was shelved along with the similar LearJet 29. Clay Lacy noticed it land and made the point; “If LearJet hadn’t stopped the production of the LearJet 35 (at around the same time as the 28 and 29 were introduced) it probably would have carried on selling another 700 or so-such a shame they did that and a big mistake in my mind as it was one of the finest business jets ever built!” After the Lear’ 28 and 29’s were axed they brought out the LJ31 (similar in appearance to the 28) which again didn’t set the world alight as they hoped either!

Making some heart warming V8 rumbles were those gathered for the car parade which included everything from Corvette’s, Mustang’s, VW Beetles and Model T Ford’s amongst others. Some fine machines for sure-all of which made their way slowly along the flight line. There was a gathering of static aircraft the public could get up close to which included the Planes of Fame SBD-5 Dauntless and the all silver B-25N Mitchell “Pacific Princess”-great shame they were not in Saturdays flying display but great to see them nevertheless. A constant trickle of helicopters behind the control tower departed south of the airport during the day giving joy rides to those not wishing to fly in one of the many piston aircraft on offer, the Cable show organisers catering for all tastes it seemed. The sight of three Ryan PT-22’s in the air at once was extremely rare but it happened at Cable! One of those aircraft, belonging to Terry Freedman, had only just been completed-it’s long rebuild (which started in 1999 before a few years of rest!) coming to an end just a few days before the show. The engine wasn’t cheap to rebuild either, coming out at a mere $18,000; “ But it did find some problems which I’m pleased about which could have made things even worse in the long run had I not got that rebuild done!”reported Terry after the display. A number of passes by the threesome went real well and included a Stearman for completeness-a fine sight for all radial engine freaks!

Largest aircraft at the show was the well known “D Day Doll” DC-3, locally based at Riverside with the CAF Inland Empire Wing. Configured as a C-53D, the Dak’ climbed high before a number of colourful and patriotic parachutist spiralled down to earth from the large olive green machine which then descended for some spirited passes along the crowd line. Biggest formation of the day was that of the Van’s Air Force-Southern California Wing who flew some neat and tight formations lead by Gary Sobeck in their nimble RV-8’s. Scott Chastain’s immaculate “Descending Dove” P-51 colored look-alike standing out amongst the buzzing throng. As the show came to an end on Saturday evening the multitude of visiting aircraft began to fire up and line up for departure as the sun began to set. The multitude of pristine Waco’s, Stearmans, Luscombe’s, Cub’s and Bird Dogs was mind boggling and a joy to watch as they headed out. Sunday morning was affected by high Santa Ana winds in the area and prevented many would be visitors arriving by air but the show went on without problem fortunately as the winds gradually subsided. For me it was a wonderful show and the organizers should be proud of what they have here-the sight of so many pristine vintage and sport aircraft made a wonderful change to the normal loud air shows we have. Hats off to the Cable Air Show-a show not to be missed for sure!

With many thanks to Barry Ambrose/