Day 170 – Airshow
Hours of Daylight – 12:23
So, i took the motorcycle down to Mountain Home AFB yesterday to attend the last day of "Gunfighter Skies," a large airshow held annually at the base. I love and hate airshows in equal measure.
First and foremost i simply love airplanes. All airplanes. Now, that being said don’t for one minute think that a) i’m oblivious to what many of the aircraft are designed to do (kill many many people, destroy on a massive scale, etc.), or b) that many of these airplanes cost the equivalent of the GDP of a small country and could the money be better spent on, say, education, or better levees for the city of New Orleans?
Picasso once said "everything is miraculous. It’s miraculous that one doesn’t disolve in his own bath." If he was jazzed by that thought imagine how The Artist might feel watching an F-15 streak by on full afterburner, then fly by again at 1/5th that speed, then return only to climb straight up into the sky until it vanished from sight. Stripped of its weapons would even an ardant pacifist and humanitarian find beauty in such a thing? If you didn’t know that the raison d’etre for such a thing was primarilly as a weapon of war could you look at it only as a piece of flying sculpture that roars and whispers and cavorts in the air?
I’ve known people who oppose all warfare yet are fascinated by displays of armor and swords in museums. Is that any different? Is the skill of the Chinese master amorer different than the skill of the engineer who makes it possible for a ship made of metal to fly? Weapons are weapons. Their purpose is to kill, or more exactly, for their wielder to survive battle. I dislike what these devices are used for, but i cannot be amazed when i watch them fly.
Note the formation at left here. In the lead is a P-51 Mustang, on left wing is a F-16, on right wing an F-15. See how the P-51’s tail seems a bit higher than the wings; almost like it’s gently pointed down. Notice the opposite is true for the two jets. This is because the P-51 is flying very fast for its design. The wings, with lots of air rushing over them very quickly, are generating lots of lift. To counter that lift the pilot has adjusted the elevator trim so that the plane is actually "nose low" or indeed pointed slightly down. The jet, on the other hand, are flying somewhat slowly for their design. Their wings don’t generate lift to the same exent as the Mustang’s do, so the pilots of the jets have trimmed their aircraft "nose high" so their wings bite into the air at a greater angle and thus generate sufficient lift to keep aloft.
The following three pictures are sort of a wrap up of the show. It starts with a magnificently restored PT-17 training biplane. Then there what many call the pinnacle of aviation design – the F-117 Stealth Fighter. I’ve heard that F-117 pilots (or perhaps non-pilots) call the plane the "woblin’ goblin." It’s odd radar-reflecting shapes probably don’t enhance stable flight, and indeed when the F-117 did a couple of passes i could easily see the wings oscilating as the pilot (or the quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire flight control systems) made many small control inputs. Finally i couldn’t help but find a certain irony watching a parade of people walk through the bomb bay of a B-52. A child of the late 60’s and early 70’s i cannot look at a B-52 and not think of images of carpet bombing in Cambodia, and of the SAC B-52’s that carried the big thermonuclear "city killers."