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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Air Power Expo

The other day Hubby asked if I'd like to go to the air show at Carswell. I haven't intentionally been to an air show since I was a kid; we happened to be in San Francisco one year when we saw an air show going on overhead and we have a neighbor who is a stunt pilot and practices his moves over our neighborhood from time to time. But we hadn't taken a weekend off in months and I thought it would be fun for a couple of hours. I started to get cold feet before we left though. The thought of porta-johns, long lines and crowds made me reconsider. Plus the wind has been horrid lately. But Hubby had already reserved our spots, so I was committed. Just for a few hours, right?

The day started off a bit chilly and with a slight breeze, but it warmed up quickly and the breeze dropped to a near standstill, so it was a really nice day. The wind kicked back up today, so yesterday was the day. The show started off with the salute to the flag, but in true aviation fashion, the flag came through the air.

There were people out there with enormous lenses on their cameras. After trying to get pictures with my little pocket camera, I could see why. Oh well, that was ten pounds I didn't have to carry around.

There were several exhibitions with F-18 Hornets. They are amazing. Lil and her boyfriend both work on the F-18, she from the design side and he from the building side, but they never talk about the plane itself. I had no idea it can do such precision moves. And of course, the Blue Angels fly the F-18, but more on them later.

There were also several exhibitions with smaller planes. This one is Tim Weber in an Extra 300, a German monoplane, zooming down from a loop.

Then he rolled into a loop from the other direction.

The coast guard did a rescue demonstration, but the Blue Angels were parked in front of us so we didn't get to see it. Don't worry, I'm not going to post every picture I took, though the AV8 Harrier was spectacular. Photographs don't do it justice, but it can hover, turn in place, and even back up. It reminded me of the Schwarzenegger movie, True Lies where the jet suddenly appears hovering outside the skyscraper window.

I don't know who this next pilot is, the name isn't on the schedule, but this pilot was a thrill a minute. He began his part of the show with a a twisting spin that couldn't have been more than twenty feet off the ground. I barely got this picture before he took the plane straight up and than down in a spiral, pulling out at the last minute, barrel rolls, and even going straight up until the motor quit, dropping down tail first, and turning end over end, again just pulling out in what seemed to be in the nick of time. What is even more amazing - this pilot is 76 years old! I got a little of his show on video and plan on showing it to my mother-in-law every time she says she is too old to do anything.

With my pocket camera, I videoed some of the more memorable exhibitions, the Harrier, the Blue Angels, and a couple of World War II planes. Most of videos I took, especially of the jets, look like they are videoes of UFOs - kind of fuzzy with a funny glow around them. But this one is slightly better in that you can tell it is a real plane and that it is red. And that's about all you can tell. The pilot is sponsored by Hubby's company and he was fantastic.

The Blue Angels closed the show with style. I thought I had a picture of two of them crossing, but with my camera zoomed all the way, the shutter didn't snap quickly enough. The below picture is the only one I got of them out of all I took. Toward the end of the show, the five F-18 Hornets got into formation and each split off the formation into a fleur de lis pattern.

We got there just before the show started at 10 a.m. and of course, my first stop was the line of porta-johns right inside the gate. Already out of toilet paper. No where to wash hands, but they did have stations with hand sanitizer.

Now here's the good part. Because Hubby's company sponsors one of the pilots, we got a VIP I.D. card and parking. What that means is that we parked a mere sixty feet from the front gate, which was wonderful coming in, but not so much leaving. The VIP I.D. card gave us admission to a big tent canopy set up next to the runway, with seating in the shade or right next to the runway. This was a tent that was also for pilots and their families, so we got to hob knob with these celebrities. I actually didn't get to hob or knob with any of them, but one of their kids did bump into me once, does that count? And when the Blue Angels took flight and everyone crowded to the rail, I got to stand behind them.

Mere commoners had to bring in their own chairs, and carry them at least a quarter mile to the viewing areas. If they didn't bring a chair, they had to sit on the pavement or stand. Those who got there really early got to sit next to the runway, and those who only got there on time had to sit quite a way back. There wasn't a lot going on right at the runway, so there were really no bad seats for viewing. But in the afternoon, shade was nice. Really nice.

This is them:

This is us:

Commoners had to fight the crowds to buy their lunch:

We had a catered lunch:

But the very best part - drum roll please.

They had porta-johns, long lines and no toilet paper:

We had a trailer with real flushing toilets and sinks with soap! See the air-conditioner and no lines?!!!

I'm usually one of the peons standing in line for an hour. I could really get used to this!

The only drawback to parking sixty steps from the front gate was being the last ones out of the parking lot. But Hubby had a deck of cards in the car so we played blackjack while waiting for the line to move. I won.

A very good day.

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