Sunday, July 31, 2005

Oshkosh air show

The youngest son and I went to the Oshkosh air show Saturday. We'd heard that Space Ship 1 was going to be there, and I'd never been before. The family visited the museum itself, but the air show is another matter.

I was impressed by how many volunteers they had. The parking alone must have kept at least 40 people hard at work. We wound up in the red lot, and saw the Warbirds section first. I had to insist to youngest son that this was not a time for inventions, but for listening and learning.

So we looked at old planes, looked into an F16, climbed into a Blackhawk, talked with Border Patrol folks and watched a girl try out a whirligig contraption at the Special Ops booths. (Two axes of rotation, both in lively motion. Her hair dragged on the ground from time to time.) The Air Force had a huge section on women in flight, and a wall devoted to the Tuskeegee airmen.

Yes, we brought our own food and drink. So sue me.

I won't detail the exhibits we saw--one was Morgan's rather innovative lift system, using four propellers mounted horizontally in the wings. We didn't try out the video games--there were lots of them. Best Buy had a truck with X-box stations. Did you want books and memorabilia? Or instruments? Or headphones? Or miscellaneous engine parts?

Space Ship 1 was there--I hope the pictures turn out OK. So was the Voyager. I'd no appreciation for how huge that thing was--the wingspan is truly impressive. A man who'd seen it land said it was beautiful--and I can believe something that has to be flying so long is also going to be graceful.

We took an old yellow school bus to the museum. I was going to point out to youngest son that I'd ridden in buses like this before--but then I looked at the details up front. There were switches for left rear heater, and such things--it was rather fancier than the beasts I used to ride in.

The museum has a new section devoted to non-human flight--birds, insects, pterosaurs. The movie was from BBC's "Walking with Dinosaurs" series; a description of the last journey of a Ornithocheirus. Lots of speculation presented as solid fact, but very well filmed.

The KidVenture section is now much more complete. The old scale model Falcon is still there, and the observation deck with binoculars; but they now have a hang glider flight simulator and a hot-air balloon flight simulator.

The museum kindly announced that Space Ship 1 and Voyager were going to fly at 4:30, so we skedadled back to the main airstrip. (Yoyager had already left, it turned out).

In the sky were WW-II planes doing formation flying.

They started with an air show of WW-II vintage planes, carrying out simulated bombing runs. Oops. They simulated the bombs with what looked like detonated oil vapors, and youngest son melted down. Eventually it ended, with a formation to remind everyone how often planes and pilots never came home. The last bang generated a huge smoke ring. (Youngest son really liked the jump jet, though. It was mighty noisy, but fascinating.

The SS-1 took off, and made a few passes fast and slow. I couldn't make out all the announcer's words, so I'm not sure what he was saying about afterburners on Ss-1. When it landed again, it seemed like most of the crowd went home--thousands and thousands. The announcer kept pleading that the show hadn't started yet--and it hadn't. We stuck around for some of the aerobatics, went back to the museum for a while, then back to the parking lot and search around for a while in an almost-empty lot until youngest son spotted the car.

I know, I'm not a real afficianado. I could tell the breeze was cool and steady, but not how fast or from which direction. The sky was clear, with only high clouds--is that observant enough?

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