Monday, June 25, 2018

Take Your Kids to an Air Show

I took my kids to the Dayton Air Show, and it. Was. AWESOME!

The trip was somewhat spontaneous, in that I *only* started planning it a month or so ago. Will's interest in Aviation Challenge led us all down the rabbit-trail of aerospace studies, including the girls working on earning this Girl Scout Cadette Aviation badge. When I started researching activities for that, I suddenly remembered something that I haven't thought about in probably 20 years, at least: when I was Will's age, I was really into airplanes, too! How could I have forgotten that?

I think my love of astronomy, turned into a love of astronauts and then the space program, was my gateway, because I found Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff and read it, and it's just as much about the astronaut's careers as test pilots as about their careers as astronauts. I read The Wild Blue, too, and loved it, and Catch-22, and didn't really understand it. I pored over those glossy coffee table books of fighter jets, and oh, my gosh, I actually owned little die-cast metal airplanes. I was for sure older than Will. Wow, I really have been a dork my entire life, haven't I?

Most of all, though, I loved the air show that my little hometown used to host every year at their tiny regional airport. It was also an Air National Guard base, and the big draw was always that they got the Thunderbirds to come and perform every year. I remember going when I was little enough that Pappaw took me, and going when I was big enough that I took myself and met up with friends there.

So when I was researching enrichment activities for exploring aviation with the kids, it was only natural that I'd look to see if there were any air shows around here this summer. And when I found one, only three hours away, it was only natural that I'd get us tickets.

And that's how we ended up back in Dayton, hanging out at the airport, at the kids' very first air show and my first air show in at least twenty years. Squeal!

We spent a few hours in the morning touring all of the aircraft on the ground, and still didn't see everything:

The kids thought that it was really cool to be able to actually see inside the cockpit of this American Eagle. You don't think much about it, but kids these days don't get to see the cockpits of commercial jets:

They also quite enjoyed sitting in the first class seats and pretending to be fancy. "Bring me some champagne!" Syd called, in her snootiest voice.

Look what we can see in the distance!

It's the Blue Angels!

This is a big FedEx plane. The kids were the most impressed with the cargo lift:

The FedEx pilots have a MUCH roomier cockpit than the American Eagle pilots do!

This plane was super cool:

It's the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, with a classroom, exam room, surgery, and recovery room all inside:

We didn't tour half of what you could see--

--or get enough time to check out the Air Force band--

--before it was time to fly!

Syd was very dubious about this entire trip, going so far as to call it "Mom's weekend" to make clear that it was me forcing my children off on a self-indulgent getaway. She dragged her feet through the Air Force Museum we'd visited the day before (more on that another time!), perked up for the hands-on museum we'd visited afterwards, was happy about the special doughnut shop I'd found, but declared the motel swimming pool that she'd been looking forward to was "too cold," was disappointed--not bratty about it, but still disappointed--that I wouldn't buy the children frozen lemonade or tickets for the jump houses, and rather sulked her way through touring all of the ground aircraft.

This was not her thing, she tried to make perfectly clear. She was trooping, but she was not having fun.

And yet, about a minute into the opening ceremonies--

--this was her face--

--and I assure you that it remained so for the next four and a half hours.

Everything was completely thrilling. The US Army Golden Knights had smoke bombs on their feet:

I'm bummed that I don't remember who this stunt pilot was--I guess I should have bought the $5 program!


This, though, was the Memphis Belle recreation. I don't think I've ever seen a bomber in flight before. It was suitably impressive:

Here's Redline, another duo of stunt pilots:

Here are our seats. I paid more for "pavilion" seating, which meant that we got special parking, a shuttle bus, and a table, chairs, and umbrella. It was for sure worth it, especially after we saw how crowded the general viewing area was--the kids wouldn't have been able to see a thing, and I'd have been anxious and miserable jockeying to get them a view.

I'd thought that the Blue Angels would be everyone's favorite, but this stunt pilot, Vicky Benzing, was Syd's actual favorite. She was thrilled to see a female stunt pilot in action!

This was Will's favorite, and possibly my secret favorite, too, although I just can't bring myself to say that I didn't love the Blue Angels the best. This, though, is the F-22 Raptor, the coolest plane in the world right now:

My photos of it aren't very interesting, because it was too fast and didn't leave contrails, but imagine it screaming around overhead, crazy loud, afterburners glowing, knowing it wasn't even showing off a tenth of what it could do.

When I was looking at the schedule of the air show, I side-eyed the "Tora! Tora! Tora!" show, because somebody turned the bombing of Pearl Harbor into entertainment? I guess it's been long enough that we can do that?

I guess it has been, because it was super cool!

You actually did get the effect of total chaos in the sky, with the planes diving and things exploding and an air raid siren going off and the announcer screaming a play-by-play:

The Screamin' Sasquatch performed while the air cleared--

--and then, when we could not possibly get more hyped, we got the Blue Angels!

I can't even explain to you how beautiful their performance was. You have to go to your own air show and see them. The kids later told me that they'd preferred the more chaotic stunt pilots, but they did admit that nothing compared to the Blue Angels' impeccable choreography. It was breathtaking.

And that was the kids' first air show! Four hours later, we were back at home with Matt, the dog, both cats, and all the chickens, nothing but sunburns, smiles, and a thousand photographs to show we'd ever been away.

Except that Syd finally admitted that she'd had a lot of fun. And Will has a favorite fighter jet now. And I have a new connection between my children and a happy part of my own childhood that I thought I'd left behind long ago.

And I put The Right Stuff on hold for me at the library, so that I can re-read it yet one more time, and then pass it on to Will.

P.S. Want to see the selfie that I took after I lost BOTH of my children at the hands-on museum in Dayton? Check out my Craft Knife Facebook page, because it's really embarrassing!

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