Thursday, May 29, 2008

Airshow at Tinker AFB

I've loved going to airshows since I was a kid. Now that I've got 2 kids of my own, I got my first experience of going to an airshow as a dad. We packed up the double stroller, a couple of folding chairs, and Melanie and I headed out to the airshow with Brady and Alex last Saturday. This was going to be an interesting experiment: we were skipping naps for both the boys and it was hot and humid. We were expecting to have some cranky boys on our hands for most of the day.

Took a while to get in since it was on an AFB, and had to funnel into only one security checkpoint. Once we made it through, we started looking at all the planes. Brady is at that age where he thinks big things are cool, from a distance, but up close gets a little scared. I asked him if he wanted to go into the C-130, but he said no. I told him I wanted to go walk through a C-130 but that I was a little nervous, so I asked him if he'd go with me to make me feel better. He agreed if I held him and we went into the fuselage. He thought it was pretty cool and eventually wanted down to look around. We waited in line forever, but finally got to get up into the cockpit. Brady did pretty well.

We then set off to go watch the planes flying. First up was an F-15. It was really loud and Brady didn't like it at all. He was okay when it would come by for low speed passes, but the high speed passes he hated. He kept saying "I don't want him to come back!" We worked out a system though where I would tell him if he was coming in slow or fast. If slow, he'd lean forward and watch with interest. If fast, he'd just sit back in the stroller and try and prepare for the noise. He did pretty good. Alex...he wasn't bothered by their size, speed, or sound at all. Brady was a lot better with the Mig 17's not nearly as loud. He liked all the WWII planes (Japanese Zeros and Kates, US P-40). His favorites were the Pitts biplanes. He liked their slow barrel rolls and when they'd criss-cross.

He wasn't a fan of the F/A-18C, which was one of my favorites (along with the F-15). I forgot how incredible it is to see a plane going streaking by without a sound only to be followed seconds later with the loud roar of the engines! The F/A-18 pilot was definitely into pleasing the crowd...he pushed some hard maneuvers and speeds. At one point, the announcer said he was planning for a very high speed pass with a roll...and he was coming in really low. But as he was coming in (maybe 1/4 mile away), I could swear I saw the "boom" of air starting to form as he approached supersonic. You can't pass over a crowd at supersonic, so he shut it down pretty darn fast and actually came through not that fast and without a roll. I think he got a little too excited to push close to mach 1 and eventually had to abort the maneuver as he slowed the plane down. He did some incredible tight turns at almost 9 G's and also demonstrated the great thrust:weight ratio by shooting straight up to >20,000 feet in a matter of seconds. It was very impressive.

We finished the day by watching the Air Force Thunderbirds in their F-16s. By this time, Brady was becoming accustomed to the loudness of the jets and wasn't as scared. It's amazing how crisp their maneuvers are compared to the "regular" pilots that flew the F-15 and F/A-18. You could draw a perfectly straight line through their rolls and knife-edge passes. After the Thunderbirds, we strolled around the tarmac looking at all the planes up close. Alex slept in the stroller while we still went around.

So 5-6 hours of being there, and skipping naps, the boys were both really good and I had one of the best times of my life. It was so cool to share that experience with my boys, since I remember what it was like loving airshows growing up. Luckily, we did a good job with the sunblock and neither of the boys got sunburned, although Melanie had one spot on her leg that got red and my arms and forehead got too much sun even though I had sunblock on. All in all, it was a very hot and tiring day, but absolutely great!

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