Wednesday, October 25, 2006

2006 Wings Over Houston

This past weekend I had the pleasure of working Communications for the Wings Over Houston Airshow. The featured performers were the USAF Thunderbirds. They certainly put on an excellent show.

After thumping the snooze button a few times Saturday morning, I rolled out of the house at around 05:45 and screamed down the highway to Ellington Field on the southeast side of town. Luckily the light morning traffic allowed me to make it there by 07:30 when I was expected. After collecting my tickets and parking passes for both days and getting parked in the volunteer parking field, I finally walked onto the taxiway where all of the aircraft for the show were parked. Right away I noticed that there were more aircraft on the field than last year. Among the notables were a KC-135 Tanker, a C-5 Galaxy, a pair of A-10 Warthogs, a C-17 Globemaster Hurricane Hunter, the 747 NASA uses to carry the Shuttle around and of course the F-117 Stealth Fighter.

I spent Saturday and the vast majority of Sunday working with the Motor Pool. The Motor Pool has to be the craziest and most fun group in the entire airshow. They're closer to a wonderfully dysfunctional family that gets together for a reunion one weekend a year than a group of volunteers giving up a weekend for a good cause. We were in charge of all of the Golf-Carts assigned out and running several larger (6 seat) Golf Carts around to ferry Pilots, Volunteers, Distinguished Heros and Legends and so forth around the field.

The shear size of the airshow is impressive and exhausting at the same time. Saturday morning was a bit worrisome as there was a good bit of rain and there was a good chance it was sticking around. Luckily the rain cleared out and the clouds lifted enough by late morning for the airshow to carry on as usual. The Tora, Tora, Tora display was excellent as always. The pyrotechnics really make the show. Feeling and Hearing the blasts so distinctly really makes it far better than a bunch of planes flying around each other trailing smoke.

The barnstorming was pretty good as well. Those guys are patently insane and make airplanes do things they really shouldn't do. It's amazing the control they have over their aircraft. The only problem here was that they would occasionally break into the lower clouds and were hard to see.

The clouds and rain didn't deter the crowds from showing up at all. The public was out in force. Personally I think the great attendance was largely due to the media attention that the show got this year. The news stations have really been pumping the show up more than they have in past years.

Finally at 15:00 the Thunderbirds took possession of the airspace. The performed their "Low Show" Saturday and their "High Show" on Sunday.
Neither is a better show, they are both excellent. The High Show focuses on the maneuvers that send the aircraft higher in the sky where the Low Show is maneuvers that are closer to the ground. They both have their benefits. The High Show is probably prettier and can be more awe inspiring in that way, whereas the Low Show with it's focus on keeping the aircraft below the cloud ceiling shows you extremely difficult and impressive much closer where you can really see things better.

Overall it was a great weekend. I'll definitely be back next year. Rumor is that the Canadian Snowbirds may come down for it. Sound like fun eh?