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Grass Valley Air Show Report
Grass Valley, California
Nevada County Airfest - July 7, 2007
By Victor G. Archer
Additional photography from Brian O'Brien and Jeffrey A. Archer

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Hidden in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, nestled within the forests of scenic gold country is the little town of Grass Valley, California. This is where the 30th annual Nevada County Air Fest was held.

The air-fest featured a great variety of aircraft from the past and present, everything from the new light-sport kit planes to vintage fighters and trainers from WW11.

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CalFire, the recently re-named CDF (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) started off the show with a formation flyby with a North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco (air-tactical plane) and a Grumman S-2T Tracker (air-tanker). The next pass was an aerial fire suppression demonstration from CalFire. The OV-10 made a low-level pass with smoke on to direct the in-coming S-2T. Following right on the smoke trail left by the OV-10, the S-2T made a low-level pass right between the runway and taxiway dropped approximately 1,000 gallons of water right down the center. This was an excellent demonstration of how the two aircraft work together to get either water or fire retardant exactly where it’s needed.

About an hour after CalFire demonstration the event organizers had to shut down the air show for briefly to allow the CalFire aircraft to take off and assist the suppression of the El Dorado fire.

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CalFire emergency response air program includes 23 Grumman S-2T 1,200 gallon air-tankers, 11 UH-1H Super Huey helicopters, and 14 OV-10A air-tactical aircraft. From 13 air-attack and nine heli-tack bases located statewide, aircraft can reach most fires within 20 minutes.

For more information about CalFire (CDF) please visit their web site:
http://www.fire.ca.gov/index.php

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The California Highway Patrol joined the show flying in both a 2002 Eurocopter AS 350 B3 helicopter and a 2000 Cessna T206H. They weren't able to stay too long but a few people were able to get a close-up look at all the specialized equipment they have onboard.

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The Golden Empire Flying Association and the local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) #1175 are among the many groups of aviation enthusiasts who utilize the airport and quite a few of them had their kit/homebuilt aircraft on display and many of aircraft were built right there in Grass Valley. After the CDF demonstration many of the local aircraft went up for flybys.

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This group included a lot of unique kit/homebuilt aircraft, included an Excalibur and three Challenger ultralights. Moving into some of the new Light Sport Class kit planes there was a beautiful 2006 Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft J250-SP and a Stingsport Tl Ultralight Sro, both powered by the popular Bombardier/Rotax engines. Kit planes with a little more power. Next a 1982 Rutan Long Ez powered by an 115hp Lycoming I0-235, with a weight of only 750 lbs the Long-Ez is quite a performer. One of the most popular of all the kit-built aircraft, a pair of Vans RV-6'S both powered by Lycoming I0-360's went up to join the Long Ez.

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The next three "kit" aircraft that flew are all very fast and can often be seen competing in the Sport Class category of the Reno Air Races. Keith Peterson's 2002 Lycoming IO-540 powered Harmon Rocket, Jack Rouse's 1988 Lycoming IO-540 powered GLASAIR III, Gary Rudolph's 2003 Continental IO-550 powered Lance Air Legacy and Arnis Luters' Walter 601D powered Turbine Legend " Miss Ginger" all went up and made some very fast passes over the field.

This exhibition of the kit/home-built aircraft was an excellent display of the variety and different levels of kit planes that individuals with the skill and interest can get involved in.

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A little break in the action with a great surprise!
Guests were treated to a very special unannounced visit from retired Gen. Chuck Yeager. A large crowd gathered around to listen as Yeager told his first hand experiences of dog fighting and test flying. After flying combat missions during World War II, Yeager was one of the test pilots to fly the first jet and rocket powered aircraft and went into great detail about the development of the Bell X-1 project. Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight on October 14, 1947 in the X-1.

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Next, a step back in time, back to training aircraft of World War Two. First a pair of Consolidated-Vultee Valiant's went up in formation. The lead plane was a 1945 Convair built BT-15 piloted by Ken Borman and flying in the wingman position was Mark Klein in his 1942 Vultee built BT-13B (SNV-2). During WWII the production run of Valiant's outnumbered all other Basic Trainer (BT) types produced and the total production run was over 11,000 aircraft.

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Another one of the trainers used during WWII was the North American AT-6/SNJ Texan advanced trainer (AT). A group of four T-6/SNJ lead by Jim Booth in his Canadian built Harvard Mk. IV (AT-6) named "MYT-6", was followed by Robert Lessman in His AT-6, Ken Dwelle in an SNJ named "Kitchen Pass" and Marvin Quaid in his AT-6F. They made several passes over the field changing their formation on each pass.

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After the AT-6 flight had landed a pair of more modern training type aircraft went up for a few passes. These two aircraft were the 1960’s Chinese built Nanchang CJ-6A flown by David King and Harold Morley. They were followed by a group of four North American T-28 Trojans. Eugene Choiniere's 1958 T-28C, Daniel Dugan's T-28B, Tom Mcgee's 1955 T-28B and Scott Stephen's T-28A all made a few nice passes over the flightline.

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Now it was time for the Warbirds! Terry Tarditi's 1944 North American P-51D-25NA Mustang, Mike Coutches in his very rare 1944 P-51H-5NA Mustang, Chuck Wentworth piloting his Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and Ellsworth Getchell's piloting his Bristol Centarus powered Hawker Sea Fury Mk.II all went up together and made several great passes. These three aircraft are great examples of the diversity in development of fighter aircraft during WWII. Terry Tarditi and Mike Coutches flew there Mustangs fast and low past the crowd. Chuck Wentworth circled around from behind the crowd with his Corsair and really showed off the unique lines of his aircraft. Ellsworth Getchell really knows how to get the crowd excited. He would circle around and climb out very high as everyone els was making low passes and then he would dive down on the field aiming straight at the spectators and then bank away. Getchell also put on a great demonstration with smoke generators on the wing tips.

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Well there was still some more flying left, Arnis Luters' went back up in his Turbine Legend "Miss Ginger" along with Bob Farrell in his British Aircraft Corp. Strikemaster, there was a combination I don't think I have ever seen before.

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Airplane rides were available for guests at very reasonable prices. The one every body was lining up for was a ride on a nicely restored Beechcraft C-45H Expeditor. The pilot really gave the passengers a great thrill as he would dive between the trees and make a couple low-level passes down the runway and pull up into a step climb at the other end. This aircraft also has a very interesting history. It was originally built in 1943 for the United States Army Air Forces as an AT-7 “Navigator” it was finally retired from service in 1956 and then sold in 1958.
There is an interesting and very detailed history on this old twin-Beach that can be found here: http://www.twinbeech.com/c45h314.htm 

The Airport plays a vital role in the economic and recreational health of Nevada County and will continue to be an important component of Nevada County's transportation infrastructure for many years to come.
http://www.mynevadacounty.com/airport/

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If you are looking for a unique setting to see an air show this is the place to go. Lots of great food and local vendors, classic cars, a very diverse display of aircraft, all set at a small town airport. With tall trees and bright blue skies surrounding the airport it is easy to see why this one-day show has become one of the best small-town fly-ins in the United States.
A huge Thank you to Tim O'Brien, Brian O'Brien and all the volunteers at Nevada County Airfest '07 for there help, and Thank you to Ken Dwelle for giving me a unique perspective on the T-6 formation flight!

Please visit the Nevada County Airfest web site:
http://www.ncairfest.com

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Here's a link to some video footage from the show:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jtyzORmllc

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