The 2011 edition of Thunder Over the Valley this weekend at the Santa Maria Public Airport will salute 100 years of Naval aviation.

The Santa Maria Museum of Flight event featuring vintage and modern-day warbirds occurs Saturday and Sunday. Entrance to the show area on the south side of the airport is accessible from Blosser Road near Foster Road.

As the U.S. Navy celebrates the centennial of aviation this year, the local air show also will turn the spotlight on the Navy’s early beginnings in flight, said Mike Geddry Sr., museum president. 

Naval aviation traces its roots to May 8, 1911, when the first officer in charge of aviation, Capt. Washington I. Chambers, requisitioned two Curtiss biplanes.  This was after civilian airplane builder Glenn Curtiss and civilian pilot Eugene Ely convinced the Navy in 1910 that aviation was ready for sea duty, according to Navy historical record.  On Nov. 14, Ely flew a Curtiss biplane from a specially built platform on the cruiser Birmingham, but soon topped the feat by proving he could land a Curtiss pusher aboard the armored cruiser Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay and fly the airplane back to shore Jan. 18, 1911.

The Santa Maria celebration will include aerial performances by John Collver and War Dog, his AT-6/SNJ vintage warbird, along with Evan Wolfe in a T-28 Trojan. Both aircraft were used by the Navy.

The exact number of aircraft that will land in Santa Maria for this year’s Thunder Over the Valley wasn’t known early this week, but Geddry said he’s still hoping a Spitfire and P-51 Mustang will come.  “With those two, I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Geddry said.  Vintage aircraft are susceptible to mechanical troubles, so last-minute schedule cancellations often occur. 

Additionally overseas military missions and today’s tight budgets can interfere with those crews’ plans to attend an air shows.  In fact, Geddry said that with the Libya situation, he anticipates one or two last-minute cancellations.  “But as far as anything else, we’ve got the full commitment from the Coast  Guard, a good commitment from the Navy, and the Air Force stepped up to the plate and they made sure we had the A-10 Demo Team, when other air shows are losing teams,” Geddry said. “Right now, it looks good. We’ve got plenty of warbirds to fly.”  Lining up military acts is a laborious process that begins more than a year before the event, he said, adding it’s not as simple as placing a fast-food order.

While the show is on the weekend, the first aircraft, the Air Force’s A-10 West Coast Demonstration Team, begin arriving today. However, most of the aircraft will land Friday.

Gates to Thunder Over the Valley open at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday, remaining open until 4 p.m. both days. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and $3 for children ages 7 to 13 and $15 for a family of four. Parking is free.

Other aerial attractions include, the Santa Maria Valley 99s, an organization of women pilots, flying their general aviation planes for a mission honoring aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. 

Another act will remember Hancock College of Aeronautics and recognize the late Capt. G. Allan Hancock’s service to this nation. 

The Coast Guard is scheduled to provide a search-and-rescue demonstration followed by an F-18 demonstration.

But the attractions aren’t only in the air.  A wide assortment of vendors will be hand for the show.  Those include a Santa Maria artist, Ron Smothers, who will be offering giclee prints, as well as original oil paintings with an aviation theme.

The Air Force Reserve also will have a booth set up, and the Army is scheduled to demonstrate its unmanned remotely piloted small aircraft. And local remote control aircraft hobbyists also will show their flight skills.

“It’s a little bit of this and that,” said Geddry. “Everything’s coming together.”

Geddry said museum volunteers John Will and Herb Gerfen have lined up a number of sponsors to help cover assorted costs.  “If it wasn’t for sponsors this year, this show couldn’t take place. It just couldn’t,” Geddry said.  Sponsors include the Santa Maria Public Airport District, Primus Labs, Shepard Eye Center, Honda and Toyota of Santa Maria, Marian Medical Center, Lahr Industrial Welding, Central Coast Distributing, Speed’s Oil, Engel & Gray, C&D Zodiac, John Will and Skyway Engineering.

For more information, call the Museum of Flight at 922-8758 or go to www.smmof.org.

Staff report Santa Maria Times | Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2011