Saturday, April 29, 2006
Angels Over Atlanta
No, I didn't fly, but I can do an awesome low pass. This event was reserved for the professionals, and it showed. I was an invited to attend "Family Day" with a Marine friend, at NAS Atlanta on a beautiful Friday. This is the practice day for the show but is only open to 'special guests' and I was honored to be invited.
The schedule of events included: Sean Tucker flying a Columbia, (showing that you can get out of very unusual attitudes in a GA airplane), Manfred Radius, doing aerobatics in a Sailplane (beautiful), Dale Snodgrass in an F86 (now that is a low pass!) and of course; The Blue Angels.
The show opened with The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Parachute Team. Zero wind made their job easy, but no less impressive.
I had never seen an F86 demonstrated and it was just WOW. The current line fighters definitely have the power and awe, but the classics still show beautifully what energy management is all about. Another first for me was watching Rick Svetkoff fly an F104 Starfighter. A Kelly Johnson design, this airplane has always been one of my favorites (yes I built the Monogram model when I was a kid.)
Some other old friends were also there. Mentors, Trojans and Trackers; although I hadn't seen them in sometime, the orange and white still looked familiar. This one clearly wasn't airworthy because oil wasn't dripping profusely from the cowling. It was fun to complain about the ugly old girl back then, but it is probably the closest thing to a WWII fighter I will ever fly. (It actually has a speed brake...and needs it!)
There were some real beauties on display as well. There has been a recent internet poll going around asking who is/was the best aviator. Silly yes, but always good to start an argument while hanger flying. My vote goes to Doolittle, and not just for the raid on Tokyo, but for his lifetime contribution to aviation. Anyway, we watched a gorgeous B-25 land and taxi over to the static display area. I've seen the movie, read the book, and still can't believe he and his Raiders got those things off the carrier.
I can't close without mentioning another friend. The reason I moved down to Georgia was to support the Lockheed Martin company design and build the pinnacle of modern aviation, the F22. (Yes, I'm a fan of the F35 as well, but am not as intimately involved with that airplane.) It is always good to see the leading edge and in this day and age, great to know that it is ours.
*An unexpected update. Seems that the low pass that Dale Snodgrass (Top Gun grad, Navy Fighter Pilot of the Year) did in Atlanta, wasn't as low as he can go. See "Gear-Up: Those Who Have, Those Who Haven't Yet" in Avweb.