Mather airshow headline act gives sneak preview with roaring pass over Tower Bridge

Without much warning to the public at large, a sextet of blue F-18 fighter jets screamed directly over the Tower Bridge on Sunday evening.

The roar was as loud as it was unexpected, prompting numerous users on Twitter and Sacramento’s local Reddit page to ask what the heck just happened. At least one local Redditor called it “terrifying,” and, for some in the region, it was the scariest moment since a tornado touched down north of Davis about 24 hours earlier.

The thunderous boom turned out to be a crossover of two popular, annual celebrations in the Sacramento area: the Farm-to-Fork Festival, and the California Capital Airshow.

With the latter event falling one week after the former this year, the headlining Blue Angels – a U.S. Navy aerobatic flight team known for their twists, turns and low passes at high speeds in bright blue-and-yellow jets – arrived at the capital just in time to perform a planned (but not widely announced) flyover directly above the Tower Bridge Dinner, as seen in a video posted to Instagram on the airshow’s official page.

The California Capital Airshow will run Saturday and Sunday at Mather Airport.

Tickets are on sale for the event, which include admission to ground exhibits at the Mather Airport, a central viewing location and hands-on experience hopping in planes displayed along the runway, but a decent amount of the aerial display should be visible for miles in Sacramento skies on what’s currently forecast to be a sunny, 80-degree weekend.

What’s new at the California Capital Airshow?

The airshow, a local fixture that’s brought tens of thousands of spectators to the former Air Force base near Rancho Cordova since 2004, will feature some new features and changes to its scheduled programming this time around.

First off, it’s not just an airshow. Leading up to the weekend shows, a Friday evening event called Blues & Brews will represent the “first-ever brew fest” associated with the Mather show, airshow organizers announced in a news release. The free-admission kickoff party, held in a jet hangar at Mather Airport and including (presumably blues) music, will include $40 wristbands for beer and spirits, as well as food for purchase from Sacto MoFo food trucks.

“Bring the whole family because there is something exciting for all ages,” airshow executive director Darcy Brewer said in a statement.

The city of Rancho Cordova, which is the main partner of the California Capital Airshow, also announced earlier this month that it is admitting up to 21,000 public school students in the city and as many as 3,500 parents to the airshow for free.

“All 19 Rancho Cordova public elementary, middle and high schools (on Sept. 9) received exclusive ‘Operation Inspire the Future’ student and parent Airshow tickets – worth a total of $140,000. Each ticket admits one parent and up to six students.”

The “Operation Inspire the Future” initiative, in its fourth year, is an effort to drive interest in military history, STEM and aviation, the city said in a news release.

Other attractions

The airshow is welcoming back the Blue Angels as the headlining act for the 2019 airshow. Last year’s event featured the Thunderbirds, a group of six U.S. Air Force F-16s.

Also included in the 2019 lineup is Team Oracle, which recently added pilot Jessy Panzer. She is currently the only female formation pilot flying the U.S. airshow circuit, the airshow said in a news release.

The show will also include a D-Day tribute, Brewer said. June 6 this year marked the 75th anniversary of the World War II event.

If you go

When: Guests admitted Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Flights run from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “Blues & Brews” festival: Friday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Mather Airport.

Price: Ticket prices vary. General admission starts at $40 per person. Free admission for children 5 and under. Discounts available online through Monday. See www.californiacapitalairshow.com for more details.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.