About 8,500 people attended this year’s Thunder Over the Valley air show at the Santa Maria Public Airport, according to the event organizer.

Although a final tally for the weekend is pending, the total for Saturday and Sunday is at least 3,500 more than in 2009 and roughly 1,000 more than in 2008, said Mike Geddry Sr., Museum of Flight president and air show organizer.

Last year, in a change from the past, the Santa Maria Museum of Flight’s annual show had to do without the aerial demonstrations of modern and classic warbirds for which the event has become known. Organizers said they were unable to secure the required federal waivers in time.

However, this year the aerial spectacular returned, albeit in a truncated form from what had been scheduled.  Previously arranged demonstrations, such as an Air Force C-17, were canceled by the military or pulled to other shows, and armed forces regulations coupled with Federal Aviation Administration requirements cut into the air show’s flights.  “It hurt us,” Geddry said.

For next year, Geddry pledged to get more warbirds in the air.  The 2011 show will be dedicated to 100 years of naval aviation, Geddry said.

Despite the red tape hassles, Geddry said there are positives to fall back on.  “There was a lot of good things that came out of this,” Geddry said, “besides the bumps.”

Geddry was particularly thankful for the hundreds of volunteers from the community who staffed the show.  “All the volunteers did great,” he said.

About $15,000 in total income was raised, but a profit has yet to be determined, Geddry said.  Profits go back into the museum and are split between the general fund for renovations and into a fund for the air show.

The 21st edition of the event was specifically dedicated to the U.S. Coast Guard and a C-130 Hercules cargo plane crew the Coast Guard lost in an October 2009 crash with a Marine Corps Super Cobra helicopter over the Pacific Ocean in Southern California.

Santa Maria’s air show is unique as it is dedicated annually to veterans and active-duty men and women of the armed forces and their sacrifices for our freedom, Geddry said.

Santa Maria Times | Posted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 12:00 am