Another Sunday afternoon, sitting in front of the computer, but this time though like the last few weeks I have been “working.” I have another 2000 or so photos to sort, select, touch up and just be shocked over. Yesterday was my first ever airshow here in the USA. Thankfully there was no real travel (apart from about an hour on the road in the truck, which was awesome cause I LOVE road tripping in it, its so effortless driving it) required as it was at the Joint Base Lewis McChord, just south of Tacoma Washington. Now what is a Joint Base, well its a mixed base of a US Army Base (in this Case Fort Lewis) and a US Air Force Bases (McChord Air Force Base) mash them all together and you get one epicly large area of space (one of the signs on the Freeway said “Joint Base Lewis McChord Next 6 Exits and considering exits are usually 2-3 miles apart thats HUGE!).
I had the best time, a new friend up here in Seattle invited me along. He provided the comfort and the company, I provided the transportation, so it was win win all around. I had a good time, i was like a little school girl, the squeeling, the big smile. O it was all to much. But It was the stuff in the Air we were there to see. Now there was 1 or 2 displays I had seen before. A B52 doing a pass. Just one. It came along slowly about 2000-3000Ft high, and just kept on going, straight over the field and didn’t look back. There was the Viper West Demonstration Team (F16) which I had seen at Avalon about 10 years ago almost. The B1 was also doing a flying display and I had seen that at Avalon as well. But thats where it all was different.
There was the usual Aerobatic displays from Extra 300s which make for a good way to break up the action at times but its usually the same. Rolls, loops, smoke, spins. There was the re-enactment displays that usually happen. This time around it was a Vietnam Era display. With an AH-1 Cobra, a Huey a O1 Bird Dog and an A1 Skyraider. All truly awesome as they recreated a typical mission from the Vietnam days in picking up a downed pilot. Pyrotechnics and all. Then came the stuff I had been wanting to see for so long. There was the US Air Force Heritage Flight. A number of years ago the US Air Force put together a display of a Modern Era Fighter with a WW 2 fighter as a tribute. It was so popular it became pretty much a standard affair. I have seen many a combination of shots but this show it was a P51 Mustang and the F16.
There was my first look at a Jet Demonstration team, the Patriots. Now back home we had the Roulettes from the RAAF. Don’t get me wrong, they are good at what they do. but to be honest a turboprop just doesn’t enthrall me doing loops etc. When you see the same manuevers done at high speed it just looks more awesome and I am sure is a lot more fun. So the Patriots were great, multicoloured smoke, loops, rolls, high speed knife edge passes. The only thing I didn’t like during it was the plugging for the advertisers. They are a commerical team so they have to make money, I understand that, but seriously every 2 minutes. Then the next big draw card for me was the B2. Yes thats right I said B2. A fully fledged Stealth Bomber. I had only ever seen photos or videos and they seriously do not do that thing justice. It does not look real. It looks so sleak, slim and it is DAMN quiet, I did not even hear a thing out of it when it was doing it’s passes.
But the #1 attraction for the day for everyone was the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. This is the USAF demonstration team. I mean seriously, you hear about these guys, you see photos, you see videos, you hear the stories. They do not prep you for the sheer awesomeness. But with awesome comes downsides. I was so dumb struck by some of the moves I lost chances for pictures, or there was times I was to engrossed in getting that perfect shot I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I could of. But to be honest I still loved them. There was a couple of times I wish I had been quicker on the shot with the Knife Edge passes and stuff or the 2 sneaky passes where one of the solo aircraft comes out of no where to scare the crap out of everyone. The blast splits were fantastic and a lot of the slow roll formations were just sheer beauty and skill. But the Thunderbirds still impress me. It makes me want to find the Documentary I saw of them years ago and the one little line I always remember from that video I heard as they broadcasted it out to everyone yesterday “Smoke on Ready Now”.
There is a downside to the Thunderbirds though. When they advertise the Thunderbirds are doing a show. Your looking at a solid hour. But not an hour of flight, only about 25 mins of flight. The rest of the time is Ground displays with the pilots getting in to their aircraft done in formation (will get photos of that next time) and the Ground staff doing their precision work as well. Plus the story telling that goes with it. But it was still amazing. I am not complaining.
Lots of funny moments during the show with some anti government times by people during a swearing in ceremony (people saying they can’t follow the president, so obviously republicans there) and funny calls like during the Patriots demo where they listed one of the pilots real jobs (it accounted to being “show off, show off, show off, die already will you). By the end of the day I was totally sunburnt, tired, thirsty, hungry (skipped lunch) and did not care that I had to wait an hour for a bus to get out of the base. O and the photos were worth it… check em out