Aerobatic aircraft
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, an air demonstration and military aerobatics squadron, will headline the inaugural Central Coast AirFest at the Santa Maria Public Airport this fall. (Contributed photo)

The inaugural Central Coast AirFest will land at the Santa Maria Public Airport this fall, bringing the sound of warbirds back to local skies.

The two-day air show planned for Oct. 6 and 7 will include the headlining performer, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, an air demonstration and military aerobatics squadron. 

“We are very excited to be hosting, in combination with a lot of our tenants out on the field, an air show here at the Santa Maria airport again,” said airport General Manager Chris Hastert. 

“This year is going to be hard to top,” he said.

It’s been 16 years since the Snowbirds, a nine-jet aerobatic team flying Canadair CT-114 Tutor aircraft, last came to the Central Coast, where they performed at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“We are really excited to have the Snowbirds as part of our show,” said Chris Kunkle, event coordinator and vice president of operations at the Central Coast Jet Center, a fixed-base operator on the airfield.

The Snowbirds are considered the Canadian equivalent of the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds aerial performance teams. 

This will be the only California performance on the Snowbirds’ schedule, so Kunkle expects attendance could draw large crowds.

Central Coast AirFest also will feature displays and exhibits of military aircraft such as F-18 Hornets, P-51 Mustangs, and a C-130 Hercules. 

Vintage warbirds and a variety of military helicopters, along with performers such as Cal Poly alum Eric Tucker’s J-3 Cub comedy act and Santa Paula’s Sammy Mason’s biplane, also are planned.

This year’s show will be staged near the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel.

A variety of food, beer, and wine will be available during the event, with local restaurants, food trucks, wineries, and breweries to be featured. 

The event also will include a fun-filled kids’ area, a VIP tent where guests and performers can find some shade and refreshments, and many other tents offering merchandise and assorted items..

Santa Maria has deep roots in aviation. A flight school, launched by Capt. G. Allen Hancock, trained thousands of pilots at the site of today’s Allan Hancock College. 

The Hancock College of Aeronautics opened in 1929, and 10 years later, fulfilled an Army Air Corps general’s request to train pilots.

Between July 1, 1939, and June 30, 1944, more than 8,400 aviation cadets and student officers were trained at the Hancock College of Aeronautics, Hancock College noted on its website.

During World War II, the land where Santa Maria’s airport currently sits served as the Santa Maria Army Air Base, where B-25 pilots briefly were located before the site began training P-38 pilots. 

More than 25 years ago, the airport hosted the Golden State Air Fair, organized by a nonprofit group. The Santa Maria Museum of Flight once hosted a P-51 Mustang and Warbird Round-up to display some vintage aircraft and flight demonstrations.

More recently, the Museum of Flight organized Thunder Over the Valley, but the show last occurred in 2015.

If the show is a success, Hastert said, a nonprofit group may form to plan the event in the future.

“Ultimately, what we want to do is have a really good air show that brings in the community, lets them see aviation,” Hastert said. 

He said if funding allows, they want to provide seed money for next year and funding for nonprofit groups.

“That’s our goal is educational and give back to the community,” he said.

In addition, a website, the Central Coast AirFest, has social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Aerobatic aircraft

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, an air demonstration and military aerobatics squadron, will headline the inaugural Central Coast AirFest at the Santa Maria Public Airport this fall. (Contributed photo)

A stylized hawk's head on a red background

Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.