- Top Gun, top show
Jones looks back at last autumn's airshow held on 18 October 2003
LAX courtesy of a packed Delta Airlines 'blue bag special' 757 from Cincinnati
just after 1400 EST on the Friday, this was our first time in California
and we were intent on enjoying it to the full.
After clearing security and getting our hire car (okay, a van) we headed
off to San Diego for our first stop at a hotel just outside of the City
in 'Hotel Circle'. Food and drink were consumed and batteries were charged
ready for the day ahead. This was to be my first airshow using all-digital
technology so I wasn't taking any chances.
Saturday morning - it's warm and bright as we set off at 0900 to visit
the 'Top Gun' haven that is Miramar. Unfortunately yours truly missed
the turnpike for the I15 and spent twenty minutes searching for
somewhere to u-turn and get back to where I needed to go. Thoughts of
Fairford and the last Mildenhall traffic congestion ran through my mind
while I drove in a mild panic. This was, after all, a FREE open house
with lots of promised features, and let's be honest, if you're in the
Californian 'neighbourhood', it would be silly to miss it.
Well, imagine my pleasure and surprise when suddenly, and I mean suddenly,
we were passing through the security gate and parking up. No fuss, no
queues, just straight in!! Decamping the vehicle we queued up for about
ten minutes for the free bus transfer to the edge of the show. Quick security
check and we're in, and it's great. No words can describe the sights ahead
of me when I notice a line up of assorted F-18s and Aggressor F-5/T-38s
in the static.
Where to start? That's easy, how about the F-117 sticking its head out
of the hangar on display? It looks good and has mission marks - wonderful.
Not so were the guards, who were busy not allowing anyone to take pics
of the rear end of the beast despite being able to see it!! Paranoia?
Not sure, but I did notice a couple of bumps that I hadn't seen before.
- now to brave the Southern Californian heat. Miramar isn't particularly
photographer friendly, with a lot of shots being taken into, or slightly
into, the sun. This, coupled with no crowd barriers at all, meant to get
any type of reasonable shot you had to be patient - really patient.
The list of participating aircraft was pretty good with even a RAF Tornado
and Jaguar over for the weekend from a China Lake exercise. The Holloman
F-4 and two Tomcats were nice, as were the Buckeyes and Sabreliner. Once
pics were taken of the static it was time to buy the ubiquitous tee-shirt
and hat and settle back with lots of FREE (yes that's free) water and
take in the show.
As seems to be the case with the USA shows, this was a leisurely event
with lots of prolonged gaps between items. Starting the jet participation
was a display by a F-117, to the rambunctious vocalism of the commentator
above the patriotic music. Consisting of a couple of flybys, it departed
for a couple
of hours only to return for another 'display', and a 'race' against a
jet car along the runway. Then the B-1B - plenty of burner and usual slow
speed pass and swept high speed with an inverted but non- rolling pull-up
and round for the finals to land.
Unfortunately the much promised F-14 demo (had been advertised as a definite
display for twelve months on the Miramar website) was cancelled before
the show, so we then had not one but three AV-8B solo displays throughout
the afternoon, presumably as fillers.
Along came two KC-130 tankers utilising their drogues and actually having
aircraft 'plugged in' - the first one having two CH-53s and the second
having an AV-8B and F/A-18 'plugged in' with one each outboard waiting
the usual barnstormers and aerobatic displays, the main Miramar event
hove to over the horizon. This consisted of a simulated airfield attack,
utilising plenty of pyrotechnics and smoke, and consisting of three F/A-18s
as top cover, three AV-8Bs as airfield attack, two Cobras as airfield
suppression, C-130 and CH-47s for troops, and CH-53s for whatever else
I've missed, apart from two Medivac helos too!! All very impressive and
well executed, again with great patriotic commentary. Finally all performed
a formation flyby and landing.
To close the daylight airshow (yes, daylight), were the F-18s of the Blue
Angels, unfortunately down to just five aircraft due to a pilot either
ill or suffering a family bereavement (I couldn't hear which). However,
as a first time viewer of this display team I must admit I was impressed.
Do they really fly eighteen inches apart? Simply incredible. The single-ship
high-speed flyby from behind the crowd with the vapour 'halo' around the
fuselage most impressive, and I regret not being ready for it.
break followed for about an hour and a half before the evening airshow.
This is a feature of Miramar and although quite tedious in places (but
only if you do not like fifteen minutes of glider and flare aerobatics),
there were some tasty 'displays'. The B-1B took off in full burner for
a couple of full burner flybys in the dark, very nice blue candles lighting
up the sky on each pass.
then released a full compliment of flares along the runway in about five
seconds, and flew home - a shame we didn't have a daylight display from
it. The C-130 'Fat Albert' from the Blue Angels performed a Jato take-off
and this was extremely good in the dark, more so than the excellent day
display from it. Pretty much the last air display of note was the naval
C-130 flying towards crowd centre at about 1,500 feet and letting go all
its flares in a few seconds, creating daylight around the aircraft and
that famous feature 'Angels Wings'.
to soon and it was over, my first US airshow. Would I have queued up for
the static alone in the UK? You're darn right, it's free and fun, laid
back and relaxed. I can only suggest you visit and enjoy, you will never
forget Miramar, even if you don't see Tom Cruise racing along the side
of the runway shaking his fist at Tomcats!!