Top Gun Geek

13 Sep

Last weekend we went to the Airshow in Sacramento California Capital Airshow: September 11-12 2010. It was at Mather Airport, one of the old Air Force bases in the area. History – Mather Airport.

This is the third year we’ve gone, and I couldn’t wait. Despite the crowds, the heat (almost 105 on the blacktop) and the fact that I HATE TO FLY, I seriously geek out whenever I get that close to an F-22 Raptor.

I want one. Or, at the very least, I want a ride in one.

It’s just, I dunno, so powerful and maneuverable. You have to see this thing flip over and slide backwards in the air: YouTube – F-22 Raptor Airshow Demo at Langley Air Force Base. It makes me feel like somehow, there’s no way anything bad could happen while you’re flying. Like, for instance, if I was in my Raptor, on the way to the East Coast for Christmas (it could so happen) and a bird happened to fly into one of the engines, the F-22 wouldn’t have to make an emergency landing in the Hudson, it would just eat the toasted bird (with a side of fries and some tequila-spiked marshmallows) and roar for more. Or something.

See? Completely geeked out. Whatever. I’m still putting it on my Christmas list.

But the Raptor wasn’t the only cool thing to see. This year marked one hundred years of women in aviation, which was sweet. California Capital Airshow Celebrates Centennial Of Women In Aviation.

Jessica Cox, the first pilot in history to fly with her feet, was there YouTube – Jéssica Cox – Pilot, along with my daughter’s favorite Red Bull Air Racer, Michael Goulian, aerobatic pilot.

There was even a race on the runway between a jet-powered car and a plane. I happened to notice the whole thing from the frozen lemonade stand because of the low, horizontal ball of fire that was spurting from the car as it accelerated. Nice. And by the way, the car won. Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Shows – Air Force Reserve.

And then there was Robosaurus. Robosaurus OFFICIAL SITE – The only airplane eating, fire breathing Robot! and YouTube – Oregon International Air Show 2009 (08-29-09) Robosaurus.

A giant transformer-like dino-robot that crushes, burns and literally chews on full-sized cars and planes. It came so close to the crowd on Saturday that my skin nearly melted as the heat closed in, washing over us while the 42’ monster flamed and charred the sacrificial car. The only way this thing could’ve been cooler is if I was a 9-year-old boy.

So between the jet car, the giant robot and all of the other planes’ engines, I guess it wasn’t that surprising when the grass beside the runway caught fire. And after a quick word from the announcer, a fire engine rolled over and casually put the whole thing out. But I had a moment (picture fleeing the conflagration in Bambi and you’re getting close). Something about being surrounded by a field of crackling-dry grass and an active fire, in California, at the end of the summer, freaked me out. I am definitely not a native.

Despite that little blip, we had a great time. There are just no bad seats at an air show. It was a day full of thunderous, chest-rattling, ear-splitting demos by F-15s and lunch sheltered in the shade of an F-18’s engine.

I’m not sure it gets any cooler than that.

But the best came late, during a chilling moment of silence to honor the memory of 9/11. At the mere mention of the day, the entire airfield quieted to a hush; thousands of people were silenced as they removed their hats and listened to the gentle, reassuring purr of the four P-38s flying overhead. It was unexpectedly beautiful.


As I watched the planes fly, I remembered nine years ago. How I rushed to preschool to pick up my daughter, the teenager who now stood beside me, anxious to have her with me, where I knew she was safe. I remembered the outrage, the fear and that special unity we all shared after the attack. I remembered feeling like things were going to change.

The moment passed as the soft sound of the P-38s faded away. We grabbed our things and headed home for a night of Jiffy Pop and Top Gun. It was a good way to mark the day. I was grateful, thinking of my brother in Afghanistan and everyone else who makes easy nights like that possible, and of how glad I was to be thinking of these things on this day, and not some crazy man in Florida.

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4 Responses to “Top Gun Geek”

  1. DAD September 13, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Sounds like it was a great day. Wish we could have been there. Raptor is pretty cool, Ha. Maybe you should add a ride to your Bucket List ??

  2. Mae September 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    What a great day. Good for you. Probably the best way to mark the anniversary I have heard. Good for you. Gotta love air shows.

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