Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Air Show!

By Mark W. Danielson

I grew up watching air shows. To me, there was nothing better than watching my heroes perform aerial ballets in their colorful airplanes. When I got older, I became one of those guys, performing in my red, white, and blue bi-plane. To some, we were stunt pilots, but to those in the industry, we were aerobatic performers who adhered to strict scripts.

Years had gone by since I performed at or attended an air show, so I was quite pleased to take my wife to the Colorado Sport International Air Show last weekend. Although her father flew B-17s in WWII, she had never attended an actual air show until now. This made the event special for both of us.

The theme for air shows is to promote aviation and salute our veterans. Patriotism and airplanes go hand-in-hand, and there were plenty of display aircraft that represented the military’s past and present. Country singer Aaron Tippin added his salute while performing in concert in front of the B-24 bomber.

There is no prettier setting than the Rocky Mountain’s Front Range and both days were blessed with clear air. We watched numerous performances by skilled pilots who had to face already thin air made thinner by hot temperatures. Thin air not only steals power, but robs lift from every aircraft. They all handled it beautifully, so the crowds who were repeatedly dazzled by noise and smoke, smiled and waved at the pilots as they safely taxied back.

As air shows go, I rate this one a ten. I’ve never seen so many acts, and on Saturday night, they ended the show with fireworks. Navy and Air Force pilots gave performances in the FA-18 and F-16, and the Commemorative Air Force gave rides in their C-47. Kids of all ages walked through the Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey and the Commemorative Air Force’s B-24 and TBM. The German Air Force brought in a Tornado fighter. German Air Force pilots are trained in Wichita Falls, Texas, and then further trained at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, which is where this Tornado came from.

The ultimate goal of every air show is to put smiles on kid’s faces, and there were plenty. Many kids walked away tired, but still clung to their toy airplanes. Unlike the circus, kids who have attended air shows will forever look to the sky when they hear an airplane. Some will become pilots. Others will only dream of flying. But none will ever forget an air show like this one.


Beth Terrell said...

Nice article, Mark. My husband and I have been to several air shows and have always enjoyed them.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I also love air shows, Mark. During the Vietnam War, one of my journalism beats was the largest naval air station at Lemoore, California, where I watched not only the air shows but fighter planes taking off for battle. It's something I'll never forget.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thanks Beth. Jean, I used to fight the FA-18s with our stripped down A-4s. One Lemoore squadron was just transitioning from the A-7 to the FA-18 and they had no clue how to fly it to its limit. They came back humbled by our old A-4s. The Navy Lieutenant who flew this particular airshow would probably fall into that same category because he was so rough on the controls. The Air Force major performed a much smoother show, which is what you need to preserve energy. Regardless, it was still fun to see the static displays and the airshow acts.