Thursday, November 24, 2011

First Air Show

My son doesn’t like loud noises unless he’s making them, but his loudest noise is nothing compared to the noise made by the raw power of a military jet flying low-level.  Jets he likes.  Jets and any other kind of aircraft or spacecraft.  He has the awesome unbound imagination of a child approaching five years old.  Just look at his bedroom for proof.

A few weekends ago my wife and I took Paul to his first air show: Aviation Nation, the huge annual air show hosted by Nellis AFB in Nevada.  It’s also the final performance of the USAF Thunderbirds for the year and they fly a fantastic show and tribute to the public at their home field.  As a result the the weekend is filled with wonderful static displays of historic and current military aircraft, interesting and exotic civilian aircraft, and an almost continuous stream military and civilian flying demonstrations.
The day was wonderful, the weather was perfect, and my son’s eyes were wide as he took it all in.  We’d been watching a number of flying demonstrations to include a military heritage flight where several generations of military aircraft fly in formation.  Then, as the day was drawing to a close, the US Air Force Thunderbirds took to the air.

As the show unfolded, I was anticipating the “sneak attack.”  While the audience focuses on a beautiful formation high and in front of the show, without warning one of the solo jets comes from behind and races past at low-level and near the speed of sound.  Suddenly you see a jet where there wasn’t one just a second ago: an aircraft moving incredibly fast and somehow in silence.  Then it happens:  an explosion of sound so loud you feel it through your body the same time it registers in your ears.  Your hands race to cover your ears and perhaps muffle the shocked scream trying to escape your mouth.  Your entire body shakes as you literally feel the sound move through you.
My son had ear plugs in and I was watching him as this happened.  He jumped, visibly shook and rapidly moved to touch me as he covered his ears.  Then as quick as it came, the jet was gone and we stood in stunned and relative silence.  He looked up at me with uncertainty all over his face, wondering if everything was okay.  I grinned at him and then it happened:  with big eyes, a wild grin appeared on his face and he yelled, “Dad, that was AWESOME!”  Then he gave me a huge, excited hug.

The Thunderbirds finished their show, the day’s flying ended in a wonderful, patriotic way, and the show began to wind down.  On the way out we bought Paul a die-cast model of a Thunderbird--he asked nicely and repeatedly.  It’s been with him or near him since.  Once again my son has allowed me to relive a piece of my own childhood, and see the world fresh once more through his four year old eyes.
It’s great to be a dad!

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