Stranded In The Southland

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Flying to an Airshow

When I suggested to my airplane-crazy pal from work, T., that we go check out the Planes of Fame airshow, he went one further, and suggested that we fly there in his plane.

T. dropped in to Cable airport right around 9:30AM, picked me up, and we took off for Chino. Due to the haze, T. decided to get to Chino via Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

Air traffic control gave us directions, sending us flying over Chino, then lining up on the runway from a couple miles out. To my amazement, we just seemed to drop out of the sky for the last little bit -- I guess I didn't realize how steep an approach really was. T. flared it at the end and made a beautiful landing in front of the growing airshow crowd.

We just taxied down, parked in the transient area, and walked down to the airshow. This was definitely the way to arrive -- we even got our airshow wristbands from the guys who directed us to the tiedown area.

After all of my reading over the years, I wasn't so much amazed by T.'s flying, although he made it look easy. The surprising thing to me was the complicated dance necessary to work the radios and deal with the air traffic control. Everything happened incredably quickly, and was totally jargonful.

I could understand why T. was putting down the flaps, or banking, or changing the mixture to run a bit leaner, but I was flumoxed by the ATC jargon. That seemed to be far more complicated than the flying part. Yow.

The airshow was great, too. I've never seen so many warbirds in one place. They had two each of the US Navy fighters from WWII -- F4F Wildcats, F6F Hellcats, and F8F Bearcats. Not one, but two, of planes that I'd never seen flying. They had an F4U[something] Corsair and an F7F Tigercat (a plane I've never really read much about -- I had only a vague notion of its existance!). They even had a flying TBM Avenger, the plane that George Bush, Senior, flew in WWII. They even had a AD Skyraider, which is, of course, very much post WWII.

They had about four P-51 Mustangs, including what looked like a P-51B (without the bubble canopy), a P-40, a P-39 Aircobra(flying!), a P-38 Lightening (such an elegant looking plane!), two(!) B-25 Mitchells and a B-17 Flying Fortress.

I was delighted to see a couple P-47 Thunderbolts, which are pretty rare. They are such big, hulking planes that it was surprising to see them look so graceful in flight. Apparently, there is only one P-47 razerback (without the bubble canopy) flying, and this was it.

There were several British planes, including the British version of the F4F, a Sea Fury, and a Spitfire.

I'd never seen so many warbirds in one place before, much less flying. It was almost an excess of warbirds, as though they had so many they could afford to duplicate a few. Just amazing!