When crowds get close to an ear-numbing F-18E Super Hornet or a flock of roaring P-51 Mustangs, jaws drop and it's not just the kids who are awestruck.

Adults shed the years when they see pilots such as Spencer Suderman and Bill Cornick take aerobatic planes straight up and seemingly defy gravity for a few seconds before they come tumbling down.

For most of Santa Rosa, the annual weekend Wings over Wine Country air show is little more than periodic rumbling in the sky or the occasional sighting of a low-flying aircraft.

But for the 10,000 to 12,000 people who attended the event Saturday at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, it was a chance to see death-defying stunts as well as learn something about the nation's storied aviation history.

The air show, which continues today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., offers a full complement of military jets, civilian aerobatic aircraft and older military warbirds such World War II fighter planes.

Stunt pilots include Julie Clark flying a T-34 Mentor and Tim Weber flying a German-made Extra 300S unlimited-class composite monoplane.

Weber, who is sponsored by Geico insurance, said he was excited to fly in the Sonoma County event, which he said was a great venue for an air show.

"I do everything an airplane is not supposed to do," he said about an hour before his routine. He usually spends a few moments alone in his trailer going over in his mind the various tricks he is to perform.

His descriptions were almost as intense as the actual stunts.

"I'll be flying along at probably 130, 140 miles and hour and then just pull the nose up and stop and just stop in the sky and just sit there and then I'll flop it over on its back and fly off in the other direction,"

Among the spectators and aviation buffs were veterans reminiscing about their days in Vietnam or Korea. Charley Taylor of Cotati, a retired Navy commander, took questions from the public about an aircraft he flew in combat Vietnam from 1971 through 1973 — a Grumman A-6E Intruder, a carrier-based, all-weather attack bomber.

"I flew it off the U.S.S. Enterprise," he said. "It's designed to fly at night in any kind of weather. It's the only aircraft that the Navy and the Marines had to do that."

The craft had a bulbous nose equipped with two big radars that allowed it to fly at low levels, he said. It had a maximum weight of 58,000 pounds and could carry 5,000-pound bombs.

"It was built like a truck and could take hits," Taylor said, hitting his left fist into the palm of his right hand.

Taylor is a coordinator of the Pacific Coast Air Museum, the non-profit organization that puts on the air show. Funds from the event help pay for the cost of putting on the air show as well as the operation of the museum and restoration of aircraft.