The Great State of Maine Air Show 1997
FlyingSinger was there and filed this report.
The Great State of Maine Air Show 1997 was held on July 19th and 20th at Brunswick Naval Air Station, Brunswick, Maine, USA. It was a great day for an air show, with blue skies and plenty of warm sunshine.
Through a "friend of a friend" connection with someone in the Blue Angels organization, I was lucky enough to get VIP tickets for this air show. This meant I could sit in a shaded area close to the flight line and rub elbows with some of the performers (they had refreshments for the performers set up in the same area). The only one I actually met was Patty Wagstaff, the great aerobatics flyer. I felt bad asking her for an autograph while she was trying to eat after her performance -- but I did it anyway!
Sorry, Patty! She flew an impressive routine in the Extra 300S, including a high speed inverted pass just a few feet above the runway.
There were other civilian flyers who gave great shows that day, but the star attraction for most was certainly the US Navy Blue Angels. I was really looking forward to their show, and to the chance to see and photograph many of my favorite military aircraft, in static displays as well as a few fly-by views. Of course the Blues are always the finale, so I'll talk about some of the others first.
Perhaps the most impressive flying performance was the F-14 Tomcat. The F-14 looks mean even when it taxis. Taking off in full afterburner, that baby is LOUD! The Tomcat pilot flew some high-speed passes along the runway and did some impressive high-G bat turns . Quite agile in the air -- though in static display, it looks big enough to land a Cessna on its back!
In static displays, there were many of the usual suspects (F-16, F/A-18, C-130) as well as a few World War 2 aircraft flown in for the occasion. There were also a few that I had never seen except in photographs, such as the F-117 "Stealth Fighter" and the EA-6B Prowler.
It was also the first time I had seen the F-15E Strike Eagle, a plane I had come to know and love in the F-15 Strike Eagle III sim, and would learn to know even better with Jane's F-15 the following summer. I was really amazed at what a huge and solid chunk of iron that thing is.
I didn't yet have any experience in simulated aerial refueling in 1997. (I was flying Advanced Tactical Fighters a lot back then, and F/A-18 Koreatoo). But I was still pretty interested in what a KC-10 looked like from the "business end".
It's a big jet (full of fuel too), and that probe doesn't extend all that far. It's no wonder the military emphasizes formation flight skills so much. Not much room for error when you have to get that close to buy your gas up there!
From my naval gaming and sub sim days (Harpoon 97 and Jane's 688i mostly), I have a lot of interest in subs and in anti-sub warfare (ASW).
Brunswick NAS is one of the USN's shore-based ASW sites, and the P-3C Orion was on display, with its distinctive tail-stinger (MAD boom for detecting submerged subs through their magnetic disturbances). It's not an exciting aircraft in itself, basically a four-engine turboprop patrol plane designed with range and endurance in mind. But it does pack a punch, enough to easily ruin a sub skipper's day, with sonobuoys to pin down the location and torpedoes to make the kill. Torpedoes and Harpoon missiles were on display.
(MAD is an acronym for "Magnetic Anomaly Detector)
Finally the Blue Angels were ready to do their thing in their beautiful blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets (modified with special fuel systems for extended inverted flight).
Everything is done with precision, from marching to the planes and pulling the chocks to taxi, takeoff, and the formation carrier break for landing. And oh yeah, all that stuff in between! Flying with wingtip separations measured in inches, they were simply dazzling.
Aircraft 1 to 4 flew like they were welded together. The two solos (5 and 6) did amazing things, including a low nose-to-nose pass where they roll at the last second and pass canopy-to-canopy only a few feet apart (training is what makes this "safe" they tell you -- that and I suppose not sneezing right at that moment). I was simply in awe of these guys.
So I went home and tried a lot of solo air show stuff myself in F/A-18 Korea, including things they didn't even attempt, like flying inverted through a hangar. I even managed to survive these maneuvers one out of ten times or so. Sims are fun, but the Blue Angels are practically cosmic.