The P51D Mustang, “Angels Playmate” is the center piece of the air show today and it’s absolutely stunning. It’s a replica of Colonel Bruce Carr’s P51. You can read about the history of him and his Mustang here… http://www.rb-29.net/html/50FtrPltStory/FtrPltStory/50.01.00.htm and more about the history of “Angels Playmate” here http://www.warbirdregistry.org/p51registry/p51-4463810.html . Watching it fly with the other Warbirds today was like taking a walk back in time to see and hear what it would have been like with a B-17, a B-25 and the P51D moving ominously through the air towards you.
The bombers are large and look like they are moving so slowly that you could almost run as fast as them down the runway, but the P51D; it slices through the air effortlessly, roaring past so fast that I can hardly get a picture of it before it disappears up towards the clouds. It takes the pattern around the airport so wide as to not overtake the bombers that are making their way methodically around the airport towards us. All beautifully preserved with engines that hum and purr like they’re still in their prime. All propeller driven engines, each with a unique sound all their own. Amazing machines built to withstand the harshness of war, restored and now cared for as the incredible enduring machines that they still are today. Breath taking aerodynamic designs that have withstood the test of time, and carefully preserved to impress another generation, they live on through air shows like this one.
The most famous B-17, the “Memphis Belle,” is one of only 10 air worthy B-17’s still flying today. She’s something to see in person. The tires alone are as tall as I am, just staring at the size of the rudder and tail empennage is hard to comprehend how a plane this large can get airborne and look so graceful in flight. Getting up close and personal where you can touch her and feel the strength in her frame is a sight to behold. An amazing plane with a rich history to go with it. You can learn more about the Memphis Belle here, http://www.libertyfoundation.org/b17history.html .
The B-25, “Panchito” is striking to see as the reflection of it in the sun can be almost blinding. It’s metallic silver finish is highly polished and resembles a mirror as it catches the sun when it turns in towards it. A remarkable plane as we marvel when it flies overhead and us with our eyes turned skyward mesmerized by the power it exudes. See more about the B-25 here, http://www.ragwingsandradials.com/main/main_message.aspx?db=B25story
Awe, but now we come out of the past and jet engine to the present with an A10 Microjet. Talk about fast, this is the one I had the hardest time getting a picture of because it’s so small and so fast that I couldn’t get the camera to focus quickly enough. It’s an incredible little plane. The announcer made the comment that you curl up and pull the plane up around you to get in it like it was clothing that you wear. The Microjet racing the jet powered school bus was what probably captured my son’s attention the most. All that power, all that speed and of course, fire shooting down the runway and blowing the enormous amount of heat from it across the crowd made you feel like you were getting a 4D experience. What more could a nine year old ask for at an air show? Smiles, gasps and cheers all around as the jet powered school bus won the race against the Microjet.
McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II, it is truly the most amazing jet to see fly as it defies everything I know about flying. The vertical take off and landings, stopping and hovering, slowly turning on a dime in midair, it goes against all the aerodynamic principles that I’ve ever known about flying. Talk about a show stopper! Its fast, maneuverable and versatile. I feel certain that it’s a jaw dropper for everyone to see wherever it’s flown in the world.
I have to say that my life long obsession with biplanes was only encouraged today by finally getting to see two fly in person for the first time. Three time National Aerobatic Champion, Gene Soucy piloting “Showcat,” a modified Grumman biplane specially designed for aerobatic maneuvers. Its yellow, orange and red colors burst across the skies in a dazzling display of spins, flips, turns and breath taking falls from just overhead. I can’t stop smiling and trying to imagine what it would be like to fly upside down, and just hang there controlling a plane as you move parallel to the runway. It’s heart stopping to see the biplane reach straight up for the sky and then like it runs out of gas, free fall and turn facing the grounds as he gives it power and comes so dangerously close to the earth below as he eases it back parallel to the runway again. Now, that’s something to see! I live for the day that I might get to fly in one even if it’s just upside down or a loop around. See more about Gene and “Showcat” at this link, http://www.genesoucy.com/aircraft.htm.
Also performing amazing aerobatics is Keith Davis in this Pitts Special biplane. He wows the crowd with a display of high climbs and spinning free falls with perfect control. Again, I can’t imagine what it feels like with all those g-forces pressing against your body and the blood rushing to and from your head. It must take an enormous amount of control to handle a plane in these conditions. What he makes looks effortless leaves me wondering if I’ll ever bank more than 45 degrees when I’m flying. There is something majestic and old world about watching a biplane in the air. They are marvelous machines that transcend time and make my whole body respond in fascination and wonder while watching them glide purposely through the air. See more about Keith here, http://www.KDAirshows.com/.
Seeing the excitement in Jason’s face was priceless as he oohed and awed at the assortment of planes that flew over us and grabbed our attention from the first engine start up of the Harrier until the last whomp-whomp of the Cobra helicopter passing overhead. I can’t say that I probably looked much different. It’s been so long since I’ve been this close to jets that I forgot how much I love the sound of them. It’s so loud at times that you can feel the vibration from inside of your body resonating threw you to the outside.
The weather though reluctant to move on today, finally gave through to the heat of the sun urging them to give way just around the airport for long enough to get everyone scheduled to perform up in the air. The drive and wait was absolutely worth it, and we were not disappointed with the spectacular displays of aerodynamics, speed and precision shown across the spectrum from propeller driven engines to jet propulsion engines racing through the skies. The unequivocal expression from my son when I was getting ready to close the door on the car as he looked me in the eyes and said, “This was way better than the double header football game I missed today. Thanks mom!” I think I might just have passed along the bug to him for another generation of flying dreams that might have just brought forth life in him.