The California Capital Airshow is in town this weekend. In fact, as these words are typed, I can hear the faint roar of a jet engine in the direction of Mather Air Field where the show is being held.
Yesterday, I took my son - he will be four in a couple of months - to Mather so we could check out the action. We spent just under four hours at the air show, and although we were exhausted when we got home, I couldn't have asked for a nicer experience as we got to bond with some guy time while indulging his (and my) love for airplanes.
This air show was very well organized, and one thing that was obvious was the attention that was paid to security. There was an armed presence throughout the area. The security was military, with loaded M-16s and M-203s, and the soldiers were wearing floppy boonie hats and body armor. I snapped this shot of a group of them as I entered the air show:
One photo I would have LOVED to have gotten, but I just couldn't make it happen, would be of the protesters who were standing at the entrance where the cars entered the parking lot. There were about eight of them, with signs that said things along the lines of "These airplanes are weapons of death" or "These airplanes are used to kill people" or something along those lines. Had my son not been with me, I would have walked from the parking lot back to the entrance to take these clowns' pictures, but it was a long walk, and my son has little 3 year-old legs.
An air show has two main attractions: there are the kinetic displays, which would be the planes performing maneuvers in the sky over the runway, and the static displays, which are the planes that are permanently parked and available for viewing and walking through/sitting in. The most frustrating part of taking pictures at an air show is that unless you have a super-expensive camera with an awesome zoom and super-high-speed shutter, then the pictures of the airplanes in the sky often turn out to be rather anticlimactic. Please keep that in mind as you look at the images I captured with my little digital camera:
After sitting in some helicopters on display, such as a Blackhawk and Huey, my son and I made our way the massive C-5 Galaxy. My son loves this plane and has watched every video of it that you can find on YouTube. This airplane is too massive to contemplate; even this photo doesn't do it justice. The best thing to do was to put my son under one of the plane's massive engines to give a better idea of scale:
I continue to wonder how something that large can fly, no matter how big the engines are. Compared to my son, the engines look huge. Compared to the rest of the aircraft, they actually look rather small.
The people under that tail also give you an idea how massive the C-5 is.
The airshow included some vintage aircraft going all the way back to World War II. I was pleased to see a P-51 Mustang fighter and a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber.
The P-51 Mustang was just about the limit of what could be achieved with a propeller-driven aircraft. It ruled the skies of Europe until the Germans fielded the Me-262 jet fighter right at the end of the War. The B-25 is what Jimmy Doolittle used in the April 1942 bombing raid on Tokyo in which he and his men flew them off the deck of an aircraft carrier.
On to the demonstrations:
The first one we witnessed was a couple of Army Blackhawk helicopters dropping some soldiers - air assault style - onto the tarmac.
A pilot named Sean Tucker put his Oracle Biplane through its paces. He does things in that plane that seem to defy the laws of physics, sending the plane end over end like a giant has just tossed it. Somehow, Tucker always pulls the plane out of its tailspin and climbs back up for more.
A Harrier showed what it can do, with the pilot hovering near the crowd and then actually drifting backward. When the Harrier is hovering, the jet engines are unbelievably loud.
This Coast Guard C-130 Hercules flies out of McClellan Air Park all day long just about every day, and often buzzes our house. It always impresses me to watch a big airplane fly so low to the ground. Note the Blue Angel F/A-18s parked in the foreground.
I was hoping to get a better view of the Blue Angel F/A-18s, but that is as close as you could get. I understand of course: if your life depended on that airplane running properly, would you want thousands of people touching it and climbing all over it?
And here are the Blue Angels in action! Still pictures could never begin to do them justice, but here are some more shots just the same:
There were certain portions of this air show when I began to get tears in my eyes. Seeing the power, technological creativity, and good ol' kick-ass American military might of some of these airplanes - both modern and from wars past - made me swell with pride. I can't wait to go again next year!
Good Day to You, Sir