Blue Angels, Chuckles, and other friends

Turn up your computer volume and check out these fellas:

If that doesn’t give you a little twist in the pit of your stomach, I’m not sure what to say to you.

Last week, my friend Mary and I headed to a small airport south of town for an air show.  I’d never been to an air show before, but I had seen the Blue Angels practice over my friend Lizzie’s house in Pensacola, and I knew they would be well worth the trip and the cost of admission.  And I’m generally up for doing something new, so I was game.

Unfortunately, it was raining … and there was no sign of it letting up.  But Mary is much more optimistic than I am, and we headed out to see what we could see, despite the precipitation.

One of my favorite parts of the air show was that it was a chance to thank the men of our military.  I don’t know much about air shows, but I don’t think all of them are directly linked to a branch of the military.  This one was to celebrate the end of “Navy week” around the city, so there were Navy officers and pilots from across the country who came to show off their planes and helicopters.  It was nice to be able to show our appreciation for what they do for us every day.

So we walked around in the rain and checked everything out.

While the little planes and helicopters were impressive in their own right, the queen of the tarmac was the enormous transporter-thing below (on the left — I should have gotten a better picture of it… and remembered its name:

It was enormous.  I still can’t imagine how it gets off the ground and into the air.

We were able to walk through the cargo part of it — the pilots fly it from above, on the second level.  I was amazed.

A little stunt plane went up at 11:30, when the show was supposed to start, to test the “ceiling” (a term we became quite familiar with that day) to see if flying would be possible.   Almost as soon as he went up, the rain started again.

It rained off and on for several hours, and I had given up all hope of seeing the Blue Angels.  But Mary doesn’t give up easily (thank goodness), and we stuck around.  We made some new friends, like two pilots from California — one of whom was named “Chuckles” and laughed a lot.

Mary remained optimistic.  And then she suggested praying 9 Memorares.

Guess what?  The rain that was headed towards us broke up, the clouds lifted a little, and by 3, the stunt planes were back up in the air.

As the planes prepared to go up, they had this random side-show fellow.  It reminded me a bit of Talladega the week before.  Of course, he was also serving a practical purpose– it’s a great way to dry the runway.

After a variety of stunt pilots, which were all really impressive, it was time for the Blue Angels.

Everything they do is in sync — even the crew chiefs walking out to the planes and the pilots getting into the cockpits.  It’s quite a show.  But what I really appreciated was the fact that this was not just a show or a stunt.  They were showing us the training of the Navy pilots.   This wasn’t just something fun they did on the side — the precision, the discipline, the skills were things learned by every Navy pilot.

And these guys* didn’t disappoint.

The show (narrated by one of the Blue Angels) started with their Lockheed C-130 taking off.

She was beautiful — I still can’t fathom how she got off the ground. : )

Then six Blue Angels took off.  And took our breath away.  (cue Top Gun)

You might have to watch this one twice:

*There are two female Blue Angels, but they weren’t in the group that flew for us.

I still can’t get over how close they fly!

They flew for about thirty minutes — in front of us, then right over our heads, then disappearing into the clouds, only to reappear and do something else incredible.

After the show, the pilots came out to answer questions and sign autographs.  They handed out brochure/posters, but kids were having them sign everything — including their clothing and arms. : )  I’m sort of amazed they were able to do what they did and then just walk out and talk to us.  I would need some time to sort out my head and my stomach and my nerves.

And as we were leaving the parking lot, we were treated to one last show– some of the helicopters were taking off to head back to Virginia or California.  So we pulled off the road and stood a few yards away from them — close enough to have a pretty healthy breeze as they lifted up and headed off into the clouds.

I’m very happy Mary convinced me to go despite the rain — and convinced me to stay despite the rain!  Now I just need to find those Blue Angels later this week when I’m in Pensacola…

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