One community's loss can be another's gain. And that is what's happening in Shafter, where the roster of entertainers for this weekend's air show at Minter Field has expanded as air shows in other communities have been canceled.
Airport Manager Sandy Worley reports that aerial acts have clamored to be included in the Madness over Minter two-day show Saturday and Sunday as federal budget cuts prompted by the sequestration showdown in Washington have canceled military air shows and grounded military performers such as the Navy's Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbird squadrons, and the Army's Golden Knights parachute team.
But this weekend's Minter Field air show promises to be action packed with private aircraft, said Worley, noting the program will include "spectacular performances by Kirby Chambliss, one of the top 15 aerobatic pilots in the nation, Melissa Pemberton in her Edge 540, Skip Stewart with his 'muscle bi-plane' named Prometheus, just to name a few."
Also listed in the lineup is Bakersfield air race champion Bill Destefani's Strega, a modified P-51 Mustang, based at the Shafter Airport. Strega has been the winner of many Reno Air Races.
And since Minter Field Airport was originally used as an Army air base, where World War II pilots were trained, performances by an assortment of Warbirds will be the highlight of the show, Worley said.
Possibly one of the most unusual performers scheduled to appear this weekend is Dan Buchanan, a former New England home builder and flat-track motorcycle racer, who also enjoyed flying off mountaintops strapped to a hang glider. In 1981, he landed hard during stormy weather, paralyzing his legs.
But that didn't stop him. Buchanan returned to college, earned a degree in mechanical engineering and returned to flying both hang gliders and sailplanes. He also joined the air show circuit, developing a precision hang glider act. He quips, "I have to fly. I can't walk!"
Among the other daredevils scheduled to fill the skies over Minter Field this weekend are Eddie Andreini, one of the most acclaimed pilots on the air show circuit, and Melissa Pemberton, 28, who comes from a family of pilots. The full-time performer and her husband, Rex, have concocted a stunt in which Rex will don a wingsuit, leap from a plane and race toward the earth trailing orange smoke from canisters strapped to his ankles, while Melissa, a champion aerobatic pilot, paints a white corkscrew around her husband.
The Minter Field Air Museum, located at the airport, also will be open free of charge during the air show both days.
For years, the annual "Warbirds in Action" show was staged at the airport in Shafter by the Minter Field Air Museum.
Museum spokesman Dean Craun explained the show became too expensive and financially risky for the nonprofit museum organization, which replaced it in 2009 with a lower-cost annual "fly-in event" that featured Warbirds and other aircraft.
But Worley said the Minter Field Airport District decided to resurrect and revamp the former air show, which was recognized as "one of the premier air shows on the West Coast in the 1990s."
The two-day event, staffed by volunteers, will be used as a fundraiser for three local charities: the Kern County Fire Fighters Burn Survivor Trust, the Wounded Heroes Fund and the Honor Flight Network.
John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, estimates more than 200 of the approximately 300 air shows held in the United States each year will be affected by the cuts. About 60 shows have already been canceled and Cudahy expects more will be canceled as the season progresses.
Worley said organizers of this weekend's Shafter air show have "received tons of calls" from performers looking for shows in which to fly.
General admission visitors are encouraged to bring folding chairs and blankets. All should bring hats and sun screen. Beverages and food will be available for purchase at the event.