An Air Force Master Sgt. got a surprise welcome at Santa Maria Public Airport on Wednesday afternoon.

About 45 people, including more than a dozen uniformed airmen, shouted “Welcome home!” as Vanessa Boyd exited the secure area of the airport and walked through a corridor of supporters holding American flags.

Boyd, who is stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, thanked the gathered supporters after greeting her husband.  “I’m so happy,” she said.

Boyd was returning from a tour in Qatar, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula.  She was presented with a banner signed by supporters and given a high five from the St. Bernard dog that serves as the mascot of Welcome Home Military Heroes.

Robert Tolan, co-founder of the group, was on hand to personally greet Boyd.  “You can’t even really describe it,” Tolan said of the feeling he gets welcoming troops home from overseas.

The Navy veteran and his wife, Cheryl, started the nonprofit organization about four years ago after they found that there wasn’t any organized groups greeting servicemembers at the airport.

One of the troops they’ve welcomed home is their own son, a cavalry scout in the Army who served in Afghanistan.  “We wanted to let them know they’re appreciated,” Tolan said.

For more information about Welcome Home Military Heroes, visit

2/5/15  Santa Maria Times  Top of Form

2015-02-04T17:25:00Z 2015-02-04T22:50:16Z Welcome home: Air Force master sergeant returns from QatarKyle Harding Santa Maria Times

Kyle Harding

Martinez Back From Persian Gulf Deployment

It was a welcome home fit for a hero Tuesday as the community lined the corridor at the Santa Maria Public Airport to welcome home Petty Officer 3rd Class Vincent Martinez after a nine-month naval deployment to the Persian Gulf.

“I love being here. It feels great being home,” Martinez said after greeting friends and family.

The 2009 Nipomo High School graduate was deployed on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, where he is an aviation boatswain’s mate.

During his deployment, he and his crew were part of the mission that made the first strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  “We were the first ones to respond to the ISIS attacks, so I feel pretty accomplished about that,” he said.  Because of that experience, it was even more special for mom Tricia Martinez that her son was home.

“I’m so excited that he’s able to come home for Christmas and especially that he came home safe,” she said.  His younger brother, Alex, said he and his family had the opportunity to go to Virginia and see his brother’s ship arrive at port just after Thanksgiving.  “So that was really cool, but to get him home for Christmas break is just like the best feeling,” he said.

His dad, Ruben, said Martinez didn’t always have military aspirations, having worked at Little Jocko’s in Nipomo and The Swiss Restaurant and Bar in Santa Maria, but now he loves being in the Navy and loves what he does.  “I’m so proud of him, I can’t believe it,” Ruben said. “He’s made me so happy. He left here unsure, and he’s extremely happy with the choice he made.”

Adam Gutierrez, childhood friend of Martinez, waited in the airport with balloons and snacks for him. He said he was glad to have his friend back for a few weeks.  “He’s an all-out, outgoing guy,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve known him since the third grade, and we grew up together, and he’s been closest to me since then.”

Martinez will be home for a week and a half to celebrate the holidays before heading out again. He said he’s looking forward to relaxation, hanging out with friends and family and having some good home-cooked meals.

12-17-14  Santa Maria Times,  Santa Maria Times   Shelly Cone Contributing Writer

The Santa Maria Fire Department responded to a structure fire in a hangar at the Santa Maria Regional Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

Fire officials said that firefighters responded to a find a small plane on fire in the hangar. One person, who was working in the hangar, suffered a minor injury.

The fire was reported around 3:15 p.m. and was knocked down within 10 minutes of the crew’s arrival.  Smoke could be seen billowing from a hangar off Industrial Parkway.


10/29/14  Santa Maria Times

County Lines

The Santa Maria Airport received a $199,450 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday.  The announcement from U.S. Rep. Lois Capps reported that the money will pay for the design aspect of the airport’s apron refurbishment.  This apron is basically the aircraft parking lot where planes can wait, refuel and where passengers can board. The overall project will help to maintain the strength of the runway’s pavement.

This announcement follows the Santa Maria Airport Board of Directors’ approval in March of a contract with Ravatt Albrecht & Associates, Inc. for architectural services for the rehabilitation of the airport’s main hangar. The board also approved an agreement in April, allowing Coffman Associates to perform Wildlife Hazard Assessment Services as part of an FAA approved wildlife assessment.

9/26/2014  Santa Maria Times

Clubs From Across Country Visit Annual Event

Triumph sports car owners across the country are congregating in Santa Maria for a weekend of fun-filled driving, competition and camaraderie dubbed Triumphest. 

Drivers started gathering at the Radisson hotel on Thursday afternoon, washing and polishing every make, model and year from Triumph TR2s to TR8s. Bone stock — original owner cars — arrived at the same time as highly modified engineering marvels and “barn-find” beaters.

Triumphest, hosted by the Southern California Triumph Owners Association, originated in 1986 in Pismo Beach, dreamed up by a few Triumph enthusiasts who wanted to share their cars and have fun.

The event has blossomed into a full-fledged yearly blowout, a spokesman said, with members from Triumph clubs across the country traveling to California to enjoy the roads and sun. 

On Thursday afternoon, drivers started participating in a number of contests, including the Uff Da, where people were invited to share hard-luck stories about their travels to Triumphest in hopes of winning the Uff Da Award.

Other events today and Saturday include an autocross, where participants navigate through a miniature road course marked with pylons; a fun rally, where drivers travel through the Santa Maria Valley’s countryside roads; and the funkhana, an opportunity for participants to test their driving skills, while their partners perform feats of dexterity. 

The sports cars will be on display for residents who visit the Radisson hotel at the Santa Maria Public Airport through Saturday. For more information, visit

9/26/14  Santa Maria Times •  Staff report

A small plane with three people on board flipped on its back Friday afternoon while attempting to land at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

The pilot and passengers aboard the fixed-wing, single-engine Lionheart plane managed to walk away from the crash with only minor injuries, according to the airport’s general manager Chris Hastert.

The crash was reported at 12:52 p.m. Weather conditions were mostly sunny, with some clouds and wind upward of 10 miles per hour at the time.

Hastert said the plane veered off of the runway into a grassy area a few hundred feet away as it was coming in. The plane flipped onto its nose and then onto its back upon impact, Hastert said.  “Fortunately, there were very minor injuries,” he said, “and we had an excellent response from the Santa Maria Fire Department, the Santa Maria Police Department, which handled the situation.”

The passengers and the pilot, who were out of the plane by the time emergency crews arrived, refused medical treatment, according to the Santa Maria Fire Department.

By 2 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration had released the aircraft so that it could be towed away from the airport.

Operations at the airport continued with only minor disruption, as airline flights were directed to use the airport’s crosswind runway.

The plane is registered out of Los Osos, according to the FAA.


September 5, 2014   Santa Maria Times  Staff report

Santa Barbara County’s general election ballot is set, with many incumbents campaigning to keep their seats on North County special districts, but the level of competition varies.

While some races didn’t see enough candidates to fill available seats, others, like the Vandenberg Village Community Services District and the Santa Maria Public Airport District, saw more than enough attention, and it’s up to voters to decide who will take the open seats.

Vandenberg Village has two spots coming up for election at its community services district. Incumbents Charles Blair and Anthony Fox are trying to hold onto their positions as Robert Bumpass also tries to take a seat at the table.

And Santa Maria’s Airport District, with its two seats on the ballot, will turn to voters to decide between incumbents Carl Engel Jr. and Chuck Damiano, who are joined on the ballot by Michael Spingler and Hugh Rafferty. 

However, the Cuyama Valley Recreation District’s five seats coming up for grabs are being sought by four candidates, including incumbent Kim Eichert, former short-term director Troy Carpenter, Nicole Rodriguez and Maria Medina, who is running for another stint as a short-term director.

Three candidates filed for spots on the Lompoc Valley Medical Center board, matching the three seats up for election. Incumbents Mary Sharp and Roger McConnell joined the ranks of district hopeful Linual White Jr.

The numbers also aligned at the Mission Hills Community Services District, with Bruce Nix and incumbent James Mackenzie vying for the two available directors’ seats.

In Los Alamos, two incumbents filed to retake their seats at the community services district. Craig Snell and Susan “Susie” Gregg will get another term, but one seat remains unclaimed.

The Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District has its own unclaimed seats as divisions 3, 4, 5 and 6 come up for election. Incumbents Deborah Askew and Casey Conrad stepped up to take back their 5th and 6th Division seats, respectively, but candidates did not file for the 3rd and 4th Divisions.

Incumbents Barry Marks and Stephen Daugherty make up the field running for four seats on the Santa Ynez Community Services District. Marks and Daugherty are running for short-term seats.

The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District needs to fill seats in its 1st, 4th and 5th divisions, and incumbents Jonathan Mundt, Art Hibbits and Jeffrey Newton have registered as candidates. Newcomer J. Brett Marymee is vying with Newton for the 5th Division seat, and voters will have to decide.  The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1 will fill one at large seat, which is being campaigned for by Lee Rosenberg and R. Brad Joos. Meanwhile, the improvement district is also looking to fill the 2nd and 3rd Division seats, with incumbent Kevin Walsh currently registered.

For more information on the upcoming elections, visit

August 25, 2014  •  Erin Lennon

The skies above the Santa Maria Public Airport were filled with smoke, black-and-yellow parachutes and the rumble of radial engines Sunday afternoon as the 26th annual Thunder Over the Valley air show wrapped up.

A highlight for many spectators was the display of aerial teamwork by the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, whose members performed a series of maneuvers as they fell earthward, slowed only by their skill and colorful canopies.

The team also impressed spectators from the ground by demonstrating how they pack their parachutes and explaining how they skydive in tight formation.

Spectators also thrilled to the aerobatics of Bill Cornick in his Pitts biplane and John Collver in his SNJ5 War Dog, both trailing colorful smoke as they performed loops, dives and rolls above the crowd.

The show also included new and historical aircraft displayed on the tarmack as well as food and vendor booths.

8/24/14 2014-08-24T17:41:00Z 2014-08-24T18:23:18Z Thunder Over the ValleyStaff report Santa Maria Times

•  Santa Maria Times Staff report

Believe it or not, the weather gurus say there is a 10-percent chance of rain today. Rain means clouds, and clouds sometimes produce lightning and thunder.

But we’re not talking about that kind of thunder today. We’re talking about the kind that has stirred the emotions and imaginations of North County folks for many years — the Thunder Over the Valley Air Show at the Santa Maria Airport today and Sunday.

There will be action and displays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days — weather permitting — and for a modest admission fee, you and your family can enjoy a microcosmic look at the state of winged flight.

Ah, but there will be so much more than airplane wings and the rumble of prop and jet engines.

This year’s featured attraction is the Army’s elite Golden Knight parachute squad. If conditions are right, the team will perform three to four times each day, giving spectators an up-close-and-personal view of the skills and courage needed to dive out of an airplane and float down on the modern equivalent of silken canopies.

Another major attraction is sure to be special guest Bill Cornick, widely considered to be the grandfather of aerobatics. Cornick will be at the controls of a Pitts biplane for his part of the show.  It’s difficult to say whether trick flying was the forerunner of combat fighter tactics, or if it was the other way around. But Cornick’s skills translate completely to the skill sets needed by military pilots during combat.

There will be just as much to see on the ground as in the air.

Nearly a dozen historic aircraft will be on display, including a Lockheed Electra, similar to the one in which Amelia Earhart attempted to circle the globe during her mid-1930s flight that ended in mystery. Despite many claims of unraveling the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance somewhere over the Pacific, the question of what happened and where she vanished remains unanswered to this day.

So much to see and so much to do. A typical Thunder Over the Valley experience — and one that was sorely missed when the show didn’t take place last year.

Money problems and a dysfunctional U.S. Congress prevented the show from going on last year, and organizers vowed to bring it back, even as they worried about the funding and other issues. The show’s restart this year is a positive sign for the city, region and for the overall economic outlook.

There are so many reasons to take yourself and/or your family out to the airport today or tomorrow. Proceeds from the two-day event help fund operations at the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, while numerous vendors at booths will use their profits to support programs and services throughout North County.

This weekend’s resurrection of the air show also is a special tribute to all branches of our military, ranging from retired veterans to fallen and wounded warriors. If you or a member of your family fall into such elite company, you are welcome to enjoy all the air show has to offer, without an admission fee.

There are folks who don’t care for such shows, in part because of the noise airplanes make. To us, those whirring props and whooshing jet engines represent the sounds of freedom — the freedom we enjoy as citizens of a great nation, and the freedom air travel has provided for tens of millions of Americans in recent years.

Carve out some time today or Sunday. Go out to the airport and enjoy the Thunder.

8/23/14  Santa Maria Times

Golden Knights to showcase aerial maneuvers during weekend show

See the show

Thunder Over the Valley Air Show runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Sunday at the Santa Maria Public Airport with displays by the Golden Knights at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. both days.

Admission is $12 for adults, $3 for children ages 7 to 12, or $25 for a family of four. Children 6 and younger and members of the military are admitted free of charge.  For more information about the event or the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, visit

Yellow and black parachutes dotted the Orcutt sky Friday in an impressive display of aerial maneuvers, as the United States Army Parachute Team — the Golden Knights — gave a small audience a peek at its upcoming show.  The Golden Knights will highlight the 26th annual Thunder Over the Valley Air Show this weekend at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

Sgt. David Flynn said the team will perform a mass formation, followed by four different maneuvers, one of which involves a cutaway where someone will cut away a parachute and initiate emergency procedures. The maneuvers involve a ton of skill but also a lot of trust.

“What you do is a teamwork job. Doing formations in the sky, trusting everyone to be in the right spot and do the right thing, because it’s just like in the Army (where) we work in squads and sections. You’ve got to be able to trust your teammate,” he said.

Pfc. Jason Wenger agreed with the teamwork aspect, adding that team members are there for each other for support and safety. Though strong teamwork increases safety, there are still other challenges.

For instance, the Golden Knights are on the road 270 days a year, and most of them have families, like Pfc. Wenger who has a wife and 2-year-old child at home. For Pfc. Wenger, family understands the significance of what he does.  “It feels great to be the connection between America’s Army and the audience,” he said.

For David Echeverry becoming a Golden Knight fulfilled a dream. He saw them when he was a freshman in high school and told his parents that was what he wanted to do in life.  “They told me I can do anything I set my mind to. So now that I’m actually doing it, I get the most thrills from seeing the looks on little kids faces because I used to be one of them,” Echeverry said.

The team was formed in 1959 by 19 “Airborne” soldiers from various military units. The team was officially recognized, designated and activated as the U.S. Army Parachute Team in 1961. The Golden Knights have performed more than 15,000 shows across the country and in 48 countries.

Grover Cox, one of the show’s organizers, said they’ve been trying to get the Golden Knights for the last four years.  “We’re excited to have them, Cox said. “It’s really a great to get an opportunity to meet the Knights.”

The air show is back after an absence last year as a result of budget restraints, but even though there was no show last year there was a lot of planning.  “We’ve been planning this since last year. These things take a year to put together. We’re already laying the groundwork for next year right now,” Cox said.

Along with the Golden Knights, the air show will feature static displays including several historic planes, and food and vendor booths. The show will also play host to special guest Bill Cornick, the grandfather of aerobatics, who will pilot a Pitts biplane for the show.

August 23, 2014   •  Santa Maria Times – Shelly Cone Contributing Writer