The weather forecast before I left said it was going to feel like 112 degrees. I don’t think I’ve ever felt 112, but it was certainly a lot of degrees, I can tell you. Despite the searing heat I was able to take in some fantastic aviation showmanship at the Vectren Dayton Air Show and even capture some of it with my camera gear. I rented a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 lens which, coupled with my Nikon, can zoom in and count the barnacles off a sperm whale from the other side of the Atlantic. I also had a monopod with me but found it was better hand holding the big green monster and letting it hang off my black rapid strap between flyovers. A sore back and shoulders were a small price to pay for the enhanced handling.
I had brought enough water and salty snacks to carry me through to September, but I didn’t want to take a chance, since I still had to drive home alone. I’m quite sure I drank enough water that, if I were a camel I would have grown a third hump on my back.
The first fast movers to roar by were a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons, driven by some immensely talented gentlemen, then there was the customary barnstorming biplane, piloted by Gene Soucy and another more modern, the Porsche 911 version if you will, flown by Mike Goulian, in his German Extra 330C.
When I was there two years ago I witnessed a mock D-Day attack with B-17s gracefully strolling by, but this year they had something a little more animated for us. In their place were eight Japanese fighters and bombers from the movie Tora Tora Tora. They swooped, circled and dived down for what felt like half the afternoon, while chest pounding pyros were set off sending great plumes of thick chewy smoke into the air. The wind direction ensured that the crowd got a mouthful of it.
There was even a British Sea Harrier flown by Art Nalls, an ex Marine aviator and Harrier test pilot. After success in real estate ended up buying his own, which he keeps in Maryland, near the sea I presume. If you think Land Rover parts are expensive, I can’t imagine the cost of maintaining a Sea Harrier. Perhaps he keeps it in Maryland so he can fly over for an oil change and check up.
What airshow is not complete without the skydiving team? The Misty Blues were to fulfill that obligation, an all women team lead by Cindy Irish who has over 2,100 jumps under her belt. Then as Gene Soucy flew his Grumman Showcat, a perfectly good bi-plane I might add, Theresa Stokes decided to climb out and stand on the top wing and pose. She has to be stark raving mad especially since she wasn’t even wearing a parachute.
More historic aircraft were shown to us, by way of the A-4B Skyhawk, the same plane that John McCain was shot down in, the P-51 mustang and two F-4 Phantoms. The mustang named “Quick Silver” was privately owned and had a special paint job commemorating veterans and paying tribute to various branches of the military. The two Phantoms were actually QF-4s, named so because they were fitted with remote control devices turning them into multi-million dollar RC toys. During the weekends they’re used as part of the Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight, while during the not weekend days they’re used for target practice. We were told, eventually they’d be shot down, probably a fitting end for a fighter aircraft, like a ship’s captain I presume.
Last but not least were the Blue Angels and their amazing precision flying. These guys were so cool I’m sure they could text and fly while eating Klondike with one hand hanging out the window. In close formation there’s a mere 18 inches between the tip of a wing and the canopy of the next guy. If you’re reading this on a laptop, the size of your screen diagonally might be 17 inches, just add one more, then imagine hurtling through the air at over 400 miles an hour trying to maintain that distance, while not getting bonked on the head by the wing on the other side, simply unbelievable.
It was a very hot day, but I was glad to make it back in one piece with no major sunburn or heat stroke, which is probably a first for me. Viewing the photos online really doesn’t do the air show justice because you don’t get to smell the smoke, get deafened by the afterburners, or end up with a crick on your neck, but if you want to see more of my photos, head on over to my Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012 set on flickr.