Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wings over Wine Country Air Show 2009

The 'Big Dog' took mastery over the Sonoma skies this afternoon bringing a thunderous end to the Wings Over Wine Country Air Show.

America's newest and biggest lifter, the C-17 Globemaster 111, rolled to the end of the runway, creating airwaves that blew hats off in its wake.

Hang onto your children and your toupes, turn down your hearing aids, had advised the air force commentator who took over the 'mic.'

And then, 'who do they think they're dealing with?!!!' he roared of Big Dog's enemies as the beast shook the skies in a maximum angle climb.

With a wing span half the length of a football field and over 20 world records, Big Dog soared, dipped and turned with a power that could shake the grapes off the vines across Wine Country.

Thousands of people were gathered for the annual celebration of aviation history presented by the Pacific Coast Air Museum. The two-day show exhibited planes from World War 11 to supersonic fighters, with plenty of entertainment flying and imaginative demonstrations in between.

Veteran aircraft with 'open cockpits' for people to climb into lined part of the grounds at the Charles M Schulz - Sonoma County Airport, and Big Dog earlier in the day was open to visitors to not only roam inside its cavernous body but view the flight deck.

Among its duties, the cargo plane powers its way to the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan to rescue seriously injured service men and women and ferry them to hospital in Germany and performs humanitarian airlifts.

It has a speed of 450 knots at 28,000 ft, a short landing capability of 1,200 ft and to fill up with gas would take four days of pumping 24 hours a day.

Warbirds from World War 11 had a special and protected showcasing. For the first hour only there was opportunity to get close-up to them.

During the air display itself, warbirds from both World War 11 and after were an evocative showpiece: three bomber escorts, silver P-51 D Mustangs, with Rolls Royce Merlin engines, that became the 'cadillac of the skies.' These later versions flew with disposable fuel tanks enabling them to escort bombers all the way to Germany and back, rather than having to return to Britain halfway; a US Navy trainer, a black T-28 Trojan of which production began in 1950; and a British-designed fighter-bomber, the Hawker Sea Fury, that flew with the Royal Canadian Navy.

While the grandees paraded, the show music was turned down for the distinctive throb of their engines to be heard. The Mustangs especially are a preserved remnant. Of 15,000 that were built, only 150 remain across the world. At the end, the Warbirds flew in the Missing Men formation, as all at the show stood to honour those who had lost their lives in war, and their families.

Half-way through the show, four sleek black supersonic T-38 fighter jets from the Beale Air Force Base, California, made a handsome fly-past at 500 ft. It was a fleeting appearance and announcer Rob Reider said it had been hoped that they would fly at 300ft, but it was not to be.

However, an A-10 Thunderbolt 11, the 'workhorse of power and manoeuvrability,' roared and rolled with power and agility for some minutes around the runway. Known as 'the warthog,' it is used today for ground attack and close air support of ground forces.

Also putting in an appearance that afternoon were a WW 11 fighter, a P-38 Lightning; trainers from Red China, the CJ-6s, appreciated as 'Cold War Trophies' and still in service in Developing Countries; and North American T-6 Texans, known as 'the pilot makers' for their crucial role in training.

pics by Chris: Big Dog; the Mustangs, Trojan and Hawker Sea Fury; A-10 Thunderbolt

more to follow....

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