� Multidimensional Punishment | Main | Call for Assistance �

October 18, 2004

Miramar Air Show: Part Two

Now it goes without saying that on base, you are likely to find a large number of military personnel. Although I'm sort in the mood for it now, at the time I didn't feel like walking up to any officers and asking them to tell me an Iraq story. As a matter of fact I wasn't in a particularly patriotic or political mood. I was just dad, there to take my niece and my three bad kids to see some kickass jets. But I wasn't so oblivious in Dad Mode to notice that I didn't see one, not one Kerry / Edwards sticker, t-shirt or henna tatoo. I did see a lot of Veterans for Bush stickers and a number of W 2004 caps. And that's about all I'm going to say about that.

Well, maybe not. Because this year people seemed rather defensive of what generally goes unsaid at these events. Like please rise and remove your hats when the national anthem is sung. It wasn't the usual thing done as a matter of course, it was a kind of don't you realize who the fuck we are, dammit? I know this is the kind of attitude that completely wigs some folks out. It gave me a little bit of the creeps myself, as this particular announcer went on to lecture us about it not being the poet but the soldier who give us the right to free speech, etc - you've heard that before at Freerepublic.com. I don't particularly like my intelligence insulted or my patriotism called into question. Such are the raw wounds of this political season. I'm fairly sure this particular announcer went on to say something about rather being subject to domestic surveillance than reporting to OBL, but I tuned out like most of the people around me. We just wanted to see the jets. Just announce the next flyer and get off the mic.

I took each of the three brats on their own personal tour of the facilities. In the middle of F9's turn, the mock invasion was in full force. There were three Hueys, a couple Chinooks and a pair of CH-53s circling on station when the booms came. I had previously seen the Howitzer and I know that one goes 4 rounds per minute (although the grunt at the display said their crew could do 9). But these booms were coming a bit faster and they were thumping me in the chest half a click away. So I couldn't figure out what dummy ammo was going off but it was fairly thrilling to get a taste of the psychological fear of being ambushed. Considering what a small force this is (the announcer kept say light armor this and auxiliary that) I could get a feel for shock and awe. Similarly, I can see how badass militias must feel when they get their hands on some elementary mortars. So we hurried back to our spot on the ramp just in time to see the patented 'Wall of Fire', which put a couple hundred yards of 50 foot fireballs in the air. Yes you could feel the heat from way back. I'll have more thoughts about military activity later.

As the afternoon drew on, the clouds began to break and sunlight was showing through. Just in time too, because now as we sat down after the guys in the tanks and APCs drove by we were just about ready for some real action. So they sent us an F16.

Finally, this is the moment we've been waiting for, clear skies, fast, loud jets and afterburner action. There was only one, but man did it raise a racket. I don't know, there's just something about the incredible noise and power of these aircraft that puts me in a whole 'nother place. And I was there with the hundreds of others around me. I spent a lot of time poking around the nacelles of the parked vehicles marvelling at the engineering, but there's nothing like the scream and thunder of that bad boy at full throttle - two magnitudes greater than anything we'd heard all day.

Now I remember the old days when the announcers had no problem saying, this jet pilot is going to execute a nuclear airburst manuever. They would do an inside loop at xhundred feet and then go into a full afterburner climb, twist out at the top and run like hell in the direction from which they came. These days there's a lot more pretty smoke and nice announcments, but an afterburning F-16 is what it is, and awesome fighting machine. And if you could possibly forget that, if you were so dense as to believe that the US military isn't serious business, a two minute demonstration would bring you back to reality, (as my mother would say) quick, fast and in a hurry.

Next up was the Harrier. I've been a big fan of the Harrier way before it was reality. I used to read the old books about the future of aviation and I really enjoyed the idea of V/STOL the most. I still get annoyed when I hear about problems with the Osprey which I remain convinced is far superior to all these old Chinooks and Sikorskys in every way. But the Harrier did all it needed to in the Faulklands, so why don't we have more of them? Well, it's a ground support aircraft, and we've been chickenshit of ground war for a couple decades. Understandable but shortsighted. Do we have anything to follow on after the Warthog? I'll leave that as an exercise - let me not get too editorial here. The Harrier took off in about 2000 yards for the first demo and then sped away. It's damned fast and pretty loud too, number two on the day after the F16 Fighting Falcon.

The crowning event, as is customary, is the flight of the Blue Angels. They didn't disappoint. It almost surprised me that they were the only demonstration team that performed the two plane head-on pass that flipped to knife edge at the last second. Then when I saw, it still took my breath away. They've still got the skill. Even so, there was something about the way that military pilot before flew that F-16 that let me know we have some serious skills in reserve. The precision formation flying, whether with four planes or all six, was flawless. Big cheers all around.

Well, by 4pm I was dog tired and ready to break out and drive about two hours home. But I had to take my niece back to Pasadena, make that 3 hours. I got back to the parking lot and soon discovered why so many people think military intelligence is oxymoronic. It took me sitting in the parking lot for 40 minutes without moving a whole car length for me to get up and start squawking. The grunts had no radios and no idea what was holding up traffic. Fine. I called 911 for the CHP. The dispatch officer informed me that on base, we were essentially prisoners of the MPs. There was nothing that could be done. I ended up forming an adhoc posse of people with walkies to communicate what was going on in the mile of road leading from the base.

This was one of those situations in which you realize that American freedom is really different from American initiative. If there had been an accident - if somebody had a stroke or needed emergency hospitalization, I know that several people, especially me, would have gotten things moving. But short of that, people honked horns, grumbled in the faces of the grunts and sat in their cars disgusted, but listening to their cd players. In otherwords, did nothing. One guy told me it took 4 hours last year to get out of the lot. The upside was that the sky was clear, the twilight show was on and the Patriots flight team was now more than making up for their earlier pathetic performance.

We finally got onto the main drag about 2 hours after first trying. I never really got a satisfactory answer, nor did the CHP follow up with me. The only traffic MP who knew anything blamed it on traffic off-base. But since I spent my time trying to solve the problem, I didn't feel like it was a total waste of time.

It was a very good day, and I'll be going back next time. I'll know to get reserved seats and especially to get preferred parking. On the other hand, if Edwards opens up then I'm definitely going there.

Posted by mbowen at October 18, 2004 07:33 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry: