Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Chicago Air & Water Show

Inbound to the staging airport while the air show is active

As I shut down, one of the ramp guys swung over to ask if I’d like a lift over to the Jet Center, where there was a great view of the flight line. On the way, we pulled an APU for a MiG into the hangar, and performed some other chores—I literally felt like part of the crew. At the Jet Center, I joined a handful of VIPs, and I felt a bit like Forrest Gump, having just stumbled into the best seat in the house. I must have looked a little silly trying to high-five myself.

The Blue Angels were parked on the far east end of the ramp—their F/A-18 Hornets lined up in a perfect row. As their time slot approached, the pilots marched out in a perfectly choreographed routine. They climbed the ladders to their cockpits and donned their helmets in unison. They taxied out in sequence and took off one at a time. The first two jets climbed straight out, and the next two rolled into an immediate knife-edge bank. (Gee, I had been taught to climb out straight and level.) The last two took off, and in an instant, they were all out of sight. When those guys move out with that kind of horsepower, it really does send shivers down your spine.

At the end of the show, I hopped a lift back to the Cessna and took my time preflighting, savoring the afternoon’s events. I shot about five landings back at Lansing before tying the 152 down for the evening. I digested what had transpired—lots of action made totally manageable by virtue of some careful preflight planning. Traffic density had been light, and throwing myself into the mix hadn’t been a problem. As I walked toward my car, one of the Blue Angels flew overhead, headed southwest, perhaps toward the next stop on the air show schedule. Then I saw another, same track, just a couple of minutes behind. Then another. Eventually, they all flew past, as if to say, “Mike, see you later!”


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