Sunday, May 24, 2009

5/24/09 Air show

Today we all went to the Watsonville Fly-In and Airshow, something that's been on our calendar for months. It's only happenstance that it capped off an unexpected aviation week in the Doudna household.

It's sort of like a plane rally. People fly their own planes in to show, but the organization also arranges for an air show -- aerobatics by private planes, and some demonstrations by military aircraft. The boys were especially excited to see a "hammerhead" stunt by biplanes, and we weren't disappointed.

First, we walked around looking at the planes, watching some formation flying in the background.

What's wrong with this picture? (Hint: where's the prop?)

Then we parked ourselves on a haybale to watch the show. I sent Dave to get some popcorn in a desperation effort to improve Katrina's attitude, as she was on the verge of ruining the whole day for all of us, once again. In Dave's absence, the answer presented itself (I'll write about that in a different post), so the popcorn was icing on the cake and she was great for the rest of the day.

Who's the photographer? Not Dave, he's next to me. Thank you Gabriel!

It's difficult to photograph aerobatics even with a good camera and a good photographer, but for the record I had to get a few shots. I don't remember seeing, or perhaps appreciating, such stunts before, like flying sideways or practically coming to a halt in the air. The flips and twists and turns and plunging dives are pretty hair-raising too. The boys wanted to see a biplane do a "hammerhead," and got plenty of that.

Then we got to see a Harrier jet. Katrina was terrified of the jet sounds, but I was completely psyched to see these again. I used to see Harriers practice through the breakroom window when I worked at a NASA facility at Moffett Field, but you never get used to the awesome power and stunning feat of hovering.

We decided to leave after the Harrier, as the airshow was almost over anyway and it wouldn't hurt to beat traffic. First, a silly photo.

The boys' chief objective today was to score some toy planes, which they did on the way out. They're thrilled.

Katrina got one too. She loves it, but didn't want to be bothered in the stroller, hence the sour puss.

Then as we were making our way out, there was one last demo. We'd toured this plane on the way in, a massive Air Force C-17 transport plane. Its sheer size is stunning, it is absolutely enormous. (I can't stand the non-word "ginormous," but really, if anything is ginormous, this is it.)

Who cares watching this fat dinosaur fly anyway, right? We didn't need to stick around for a demo of this lumbering monster after seeing all those tiny nimble planes doing gymnastics in the sky.

Well, we were stunned. It took off in a very short distance on the runway, and at about a 45-degree angle. Then it banked and swooped and maneuvered like nobody's business -- I swear it looked like it was about to do a flip. This was positively awesome to watch. I wish we'd been at a better vantage point; we were on our way out and so couldn't see the runway, but this thing is so big you just can't miss it.

I heard the announcer say that they couldn't put the flaps down while it's on the runway, or the flaps would direct the exhaust to the runway and blow out the runway (something like that).

And how slowly it can go too is just as amazing, like it's almost suspended in air. Despite the incredible skill and bravery -- and balance! -- of the aerobatics pilots, bending this behemoth around the sky was far more impressive.

In fact, just looking around the show, I was much more interested in the vintage fighter planes than the regular privately-own planes. It seems I have developed a new fondness for military aircraft.

We took the back way home, which included a fun unpaved (though smooth and easy) road. Definitely no need for DVDs or snacks in the car; this is plenty entertaining. If you stay awake that is; Katrina dozed off and the boys had a grand time asking Dad about how to drive over bumps.

I'm so glad tomorrow is a day off, because that's exactly what we're going to do with it.


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