USA South West - Thermal

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J Cochran Jacqueline Cochran is one of the most famous female aviators in the United States, and she was also the first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound when she broke the sound barrier in 1953. During her career she attained more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other pilot, male or female.
To remember her achievements the annual airshow and the Thermal Airport in Riverside County, California, were named after her. She was a long-time resident of the Coachella Valley, and is buried in the nearby Coachella Valley Cemetery. She regularly utilized Thermal Airport over the course of her long aviation career.
The 4th annual airshow in 2007 on the first Saturday in November fitted quite well into the trip to the South West of the USA, so a stop was also planned at this event.
Information about the flight program was very difficult to obtain beforehand, but the photos from previous years were promising and a reason to go, especially the demonstration of the California Dept. of Forestry & Fire Protection (CDF) Bronco and helicopter air tanker demonstration.

TaxiThe show is quite special, as the airport has an elevation of -114ft, so it was the first time for me, and surely for many of the performers as well, to display below sea level. Compared to the climate encountered only some days before in the high New Mexican desert it was also relatively warm and humid, and I surely preferred to be there in November and not in mid-summer!

Upon our arrival on Friday afternoon and were very surprised to find many nice warbirds parked on the small ramp, and even the USAF F-16 West Coast Demo team was present as well as US Navy F-18C/D Hornets. For sure this can be related to the strong support by the Riverside County Economic Development Agency, which stands behind this event to push the local economy.

Jacqueline Cochran Airshow - Static Display

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ThermalThe weather was excellent that late afternoon, the light perfect and the people very relaxed, so it was easy to get good photos of the displayed aircraft. Some stored ex-Czech Air Force L-29 Delfin and MiG-21 F-13 aircraft were even discovered when we prowled around the airport! Being the only ones to run around with some bigger camera equipment we surely raised some amazed looks when we explained that we came over from Germany – people just couldn't believe that we took such a long way to go there only for the airshow! After we took our photos we left and were looking for a hotel that we found not very far north of the airport. The burger later on in one of the typical "besides the road diners" was one of the best during the whole trip!

stored Warsaw Pact jets

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CrowdThe next morning the crowds were already pouring into the showground quite early and I was happy about the photos taken the day before. Unfortunately we had to learn this morning that the long awaited fire-fighting demo had to be cancelled, as the aircraft were urgently needed to fight the real fires that were going on in the nearby San Diego area. After a very patriotic start the flying started with some 'previews' for the show in the afternoon, amongst them were the Patriots, a civil aerobatic team flying L-39s, and some of the other airshow acts.

 

The Patriots

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Heritage & Legacy Flights - Aerobatics

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BeetleAs we already saw most of them the day before as well as the US Navy Legacy and the USAF Heritage Flight the day before and the sun was moving in a very bad back light position we decided to leave early and use this Saturday afternoon to do some miles. Partly this listlessness might have also been caused by the many aircraft that we saw during the whole week before and that could be photographed under perfect circumstances.
So we set off with the 'nature part' of our trip and started with the direct climb to the Joshua Tree National Park at an elevation of more than 4000 ft.

Joshua Tree NP

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After some more miles we once again found our Motel for the night when it was already dark.

 

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