Ever since we were kids whenever any airplane flew overhead, we looked up. Who didn’t? In those days we wondered what it would be like ... “up there”.
For me, there is no other experience such as a 21st Century Air Show. That is until the next generation Air Show of the future. The Air Show experience goes back to nearly the beginning of aviation, itself, as people often gathered to witness attempts at manned flight with cloth wings on their arms and mechanical inventions they hoped would fly. People gathered in the fields to witness Civil War battles and watched as Reconnaissance Balloons were raised and lowered to gather information about opposing enemy troop locations beyond their normal field of view on the ground. Loosely speaking, of course, you could call these gatherings and happenings as Air Shows. People watched.
The commercialism of Air Shows evolved following WW-I as government-trained pilots returned home from the war only to find no flying jobs waiting for them. These were highly skilled men - now without a vocation. What do men who love flying do when all they love is flying? How do they live? They bought a surplus training aircraft and flew from farming area to farming area small towns and gave plane rides for fees and fuel money. There would be time for the pilot to eat after the last passenger had gone up, the fuel bill paid and the day’s receipts counted. With full fuel tanks, they rested under the wings in the field where they landed unless they could find affordable lodging and a bath nearby. They called it Barnstorming. The use of airplanes for U.S. Mail transport was still in infancy stages with only a relative few pilots required.
As an aside, I got the opportunity to participate in this tradition while visiting the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook, New York. I was one of four other passengers on that trip that paid $75 each for a 15-minute flight out to and along the Hudson River and back again in a 1929 Standard bi-wing. The Standard is a specially designed aircraft which carries 4-passengers plus the pilot to maximize income for Barnstormers. I shot a video of the entire trip from take-off to landing. A memory and experience I’ll always cherish. Their Air Shows consist of pioneer pre-WW-I aircraft and post WW-I aircraft with two shows over a weekend to show them off. Some are rare, flying originals and others reproductions. As far as I’m aware, this is the only aerodrome that features such planes. Please look them up, travel there and become an Aerodrome Member and enjoy both weekend shows.
|Screenshot from the HD video I shot of my Bi-Wing Flight from Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome over to the Hudson River.|
Times have changed and safety is the prime concern - call it lessons learned from Air Shows past and government regulation by the Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA). The pilots have changed as well. Many have been military pilots with long careers and retired young to civilian pilot careers. Their love of flying and airplane hardware is a special gift to the rest of us. They have the resources to find and resurrect their favorite aircraft or purchase new ones and continue to practice their craft. To support museums such as the VAC Warbird Museum and others across the country, these pilots continue the traditions of the great pilots who have come before them. All day long, helicopter pilots were selling rides in the Vietnam Era Huey helicopters, rides in the front seat of a Stearman Bi-Wing Trainer and even the D-Day Veteran Aircraft, the C-47/DC-3 Tico Bell took a passenger hop.
|The USAF Thunderbirds fly F-16C Aircraft.|
|The infamous Fokker DR-1 Tri-plane painted in the colors of Baron Manfred von Richthoven of Germany.|
|Just as at the Indy Air Show of 2011, I'm in the Front Row!|
|Four parachutists with flags fell from the sky and landed right in front of our position on the show line.|
|The German Fokker DR-1 tailing a British Sopwith Camel in a simulated dogfight.|
|All the same plane but painted for the allied squadrons who trained in them.|
|North American P-51D "Mustang" named "Quicksilver".|
I liked this shot of the both of these planes together.
Now come the thrills and chills of acrobatic flying - death defying stunts performed by highly skilled pilots in specially designed airplanes matching showmanship style with horsepower and agility. These aren’t Sunday afternoon pleasure flights. These pilots are awesome.
|Carrying-on the Barnstormer and Air Show traditions.|
The almighty FA-18 Hornet - just the sound of a fly-by at 0.5 Mach will scare the bejeesus out of you. I’m glad they’re on our side. I like this shot because of the vapor coming off the cockpit as the pilot engages to go ballistic vertical.
|Navy FA-18 Hornet will definitely sting.|
|The 2017 USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Team|
As demonstrations of precision flying in formations, individual pilots performed the Calypso Pass.
In another formation, the Thunderbirds perform a low-level bomb burst formation. All six planes peeled-off in separate directions only fly a huge circle and reform for another precision fly-by.
Although I served in the U.S. Marines, I was so proud to be there, I “thought” the Air Force might be a good career for me. Oops! Too old by only twenty-seven years. Damn!
Well, the 2017 Air Show was over, but only half the people are in a hurry to leave. The rest of us hang around to savor the day, reflect on a great show of American aviation and to quietly Thank God we live in America. I have 509 digital images to edit through as a testament to this perfect day.
It was fantastic day. I guess I said that already, but it bears repeating.
I know I said I was almost finished, but here’s another shot. This time the Aeroshell Acrobatic Team does the inside loop in formation. God, I love this stuff.
This is a photo of a souvenir handbag design taken from the 1944 cover of the Saturday Evening Post. This could have very well been a photo of my bedroom when I was a junior high school student in Mr. Ayres’ Social Studies class. We built these balsa wood and paper models in hopes of becoming an ACE by building five or more of them. I got in a hurry, though, and ended up flying them with firecrackers in the cockpit as they didn’t seem to turn-out very well. I eventually learned to take my time because it was worth it if the final project really looked good.
Thanks for your flying-by.
Addendum: Movie References:
Those Daring Young Men in Their Flying Machines
Wings (Clara Bow)
The Red Baron
The Great Waldo Pepper
Battle of Britain