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Airplane Porn! A big checkmark on the ol’ bucket list

I think I first saw a photo of the Red Arrows maybe 40+ some years ago, back when they were flying Gnat trainers. I was knocked dead by them. Over the years after, I used to say to myself, “I gotta go to the UK, and see the Red Arrows.” So, when it was announced they were coming to the US of A to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RAF, I paid attention to the news releases, looking to find the schedule, and hoping they would end up here in Southern California.

And they did! Twice in a week! So my nephew and his boys got to see them last week at Miramar (smart guys that they are, they went Sunday with the good weather, rather than Saturday with the low clouds). And my and my screenwriting partner, Alex Waugh, got to see them yesterday at the Great Pacific Air Show in Huntington Beach, along with the Snowbirds and the Thunderbirds, the only show in North America to feature three national teams. And the weather was first-rate S. Calif. fall weather: severe clear and upper 70s. And being successful writers with actual bank accounts, we could afford the $30 each for a ticket on the pier, with the show happening all around us, while being positioned 100 feet higher in altitude than the hoi polloi on the beach.

Unfortunately, the Snowbirds appeared at noon, with the sun directly overhead, and so 98% of those photos turned out to be not so good (“terrible” is the operative term). The Thunderbirds came on at 2pm and the light was better, and the Red Arrows came on at 3:45, when the sun was perfect – behind me, heading toward “magic hour,” and so I got a whole lot of shots of the team, and managed to put a big check mark on that one on the bucket list. I have seen the Red Arrows. They will likely not be back to North America in my lifetime.

On the way back to find out it was a 45 minute wait for the shuttle bus back to the free parking, and thank goodness for Lyft, my Canadian writing partner and I were discussing how the three teams really do represent the “national character” of the countries they represent: the Snowbirds are capable, competent, reliable, excellent and well-mannered. The Thunderbirds are loud, noisy, seen to be better than they are (they’re the only team that didn’t change formation shape during maneuvers or engage in extra flying technique, though the crowd went wild when they flew over the beach at 1,000 feet in max afterburner several times) and in your face. The British are capable, understated, competent and artistic.

I got a lot of shots. There will be more, but here are some Red Arrows shots that prove the point. The first 9 shots are the first pass they made with the red/white/blue smoke, and the second set are the second pass.

For those of you who aren’t pilots, let me assure you that flying rolls around a formation is HARD.

22 additional images. Click to enlarge.


8 responses to Airplane Porn! A big checkmark on the ol’ bucket list

  1. It must’ve been quite a show, Tom. I’m happy for you – I’ver seen the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels, but no other national teams.
    I’m envious!

  2. Sounds like a great day, glad you got to see them in California!

  3. Nice shots. I have always loved the precision of the Red Arrows…a lot harder to do with a large formation instead of just four jets. As an aside, when I was an A-10 Instructor Pilot stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ in the early 1980’s, we had a Brit exchange pilot, Sqn Ldr John Blackwell in our unit. He had just come from being a member of the Red Arrows. His official Air Force callsign was “Limey” of course. After John went back to the UK, he took command of the Red arrows. Great guy…

  4. I see the Red Arrows every year in my town, never get tired of seeing them

  5. Great pics, Tom. The Tornado rolls impressed me too when I saw them last month.

  6. The Red Arrows visited Port Elizabeth when Queen Elizabeth visited South Africa in the early 1990’s. This was scheduled as a fly by at 14h00 on their way to Durban up the coast from Port Elizabeth. The aviation minded folk of Port Elizabeth flocked in large numbers to the beachfront from 9 am, setting up camp at the beach. Needless to say the disappointment was beyond belief when the famous Red Arrows missed their target by miles. All we saw was red, white and blue smoke on the horizon.

  7. Very good, thanks Tom.

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