San Diego's famous Miramar Naval Air Station of Tomcat and “Top Gun” fame last week became USMCAS Miramar, a Marine helicopter base. But the USN put on one last big airshow before they rolled up the runways. AVweb’s Joe Godfrey was there, and offers his unique commentary on the goings on. Fun reading.
October 6, 1997
|About the Author ...
When Joe Godfrey isn't flying his Bellanca Super Viking or drinking beer with the "best of the best," he spends his time writing jingles for television commercials. Rumor has it that anytime you hear the kid sing "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener...," Joe gets a royalty.
He is an instrument-rated private pilot who flies a 1974 Bellanca
Viking based at Palomar airport just north of San Diego, Calif. He composes
music for commercials, films, broadcast and corporate media and has composed and
produced thousands of music tracks for America's largest advertisers. In
addition to writing for AVweb, Joe contributes to
The Aviation Consumer
and IFR Magazine.
He is a director and pilot for
Flight West, a non-profit organization that uses private airplanes to fly
indigent medical patients. He is married and lives in Leucadia, California.
So far, Joe is the only AVweb staff member who has logged time with Ella Fitzgerald and
conducted the London Symphony.
know. You're thinking "Hey wait, Godfrey! There's already an article in AVweb's
'Places to Fly' section called 'The Last Fightertown Airshow.'
What's the deal?"
Here's the deal. Fightertown (aka Top Gun) moved its airplanes and pilots earlier this
year to Oceano, VA and Fallon, NV. So last year's airshow was the last Fightertown
airshow. 1997's airshow was the last NAS Miramar airshow. The base becomes USMCAS
Miramar on October 1st, 1997, as part of the BRAC realignment.
Local residents have grown used to flights of F14's streaking overhead, and actually
take some pride in briefly interrupting a phone call because of the noise. Many of those
same residents, however, are up in arms about trading fighter jet noise for helicopter
noise. Choppers are every bit as important to the war effort as fighter jets, but let's
face it, they're not graceful. If fighter jets are wide receivers and punt returners,
military choppers are the pulling left guards of aviation. Military helicopters are not
box office. If Hollywood makes a movie about military helicopters, you can bet that
instead of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, it'll star Chris Farley and Sinbad.
Back to the BRAC issue. Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, about as big a
military supporter as you'll find on Capitol Hill, hates the idea of fighter jocks leaving
town but admits it's a fait accompli. To revisit one BRAC decision is to revisit
them all, because the whole idea was to remove the typical pork disbursement from the
Last Year's Last Show
Last year was fun so I didn't hesitate this year to sign up for a space on the static
line. I even asked a fellow Viking owner based at Palomar to join me. We blended in with a
little group of wood and fabric airplanes to form "termite row." Last year I
learned that ideal airshow parking is near cold water, shade and the portapotties. This
year I learned that ideal airshow parking is as far away from the speaker stand as
possible, unless you happen to like 8 hours a day of bad radio.
Loudspeakers hung from four-100 foot cranes fed sound to the crown of 500,000. They
were spaced about every 2,000 feet along the runway. It was just the (bad) luck of the
draw that both Vikings wound up right in the path of one of the speakers. If I hadn't had
to slow to follow that Katana....
I'm in the advertising business. I use my airplane to fly to meetings and recording
sessions, but I also use it, as a lot of us do, as a hobby to get my mind away from my
business...to recharge my creative batteries so I can tackle projects with a full head of
steam. Maybe that's why I hate to see bad advertising taking over the airshow circuit. And
this may have been happening for a while, but since I wasn't forced to listen last year it
didn't bother me as much.
Sean Gets Tuckered Out
Well, folks, the camel is in the tent. Sponsors have long determined who we get to see,
but now they're determining who we don't get to see, too. This year, Sprint was one
of the main sponsors of Miramar. Booths all over the field were promoting cellular phones,
cellular service, long distance service, all their services and products. Okay. But Sprint
didn't like the idea of all those potential customers watching Sean Tucker's
1-800-COLLECT-sponsored airplane performing his amazing show for the crowd. So Sean got
the boot. I was sorry to see him go, but as good as Sean is, I wasn't disappointed not to
have to listen to his kid make that 1-800-COLLECT phone call to his dad in the cockpit.
And, by the way, how come Sean gets to use his cellular phone in the airplane front of god
and the FAA and everybody, but you and I are advised it's against the law?
Patty Wagstaff flew in place of Tucker. She is sponsored by Aeroshell who doesn't make
a big deal about it. Clearly the classiest sponsorship on the circuit. Oracle is also a
classy sponsor. They sponsor Wayne Handley's Raven, but Wayne's act isn't littered with a
bunch of drivel about how the wrong relational database can turn your career into an
Immelman. They just let him fly.
There's a tie for unclassiest sponsor. I guess Kodak can be fogiven for wanting you to
think that every wingover is a Kodak moment. But there were some sponsor connections that
stretch the imagination. Cool Cuts are little bite-size vegetables for kids. They
sponsored the helicopter demo. Thank goodness we were spared the sight of a giant carrot
being sliced by a Sea Knight. Chevrolet sponsored the Marine invasion demo. The announcers
urged spectators to test drive a Chevy today because it's "as American as the
Marines." Could I make this up?? And is there supposed to be a connection between
watching loops by The Red Baron Frozen Pizza Stearman Squadron and your desire for a
triangle of warm cardboard with cheese and tomato sauce on it?
So far the sponsors seem content with the civilian acts. But are we far from the day
when we see the IBM Big Blue Angels or the US Air Force Ford Thunderbirds?
Isn't That Ironic?
Four ironies hit me over the weekend.
Irony #1: Ground personnel move around Miramar (and, I suspect, most military bases) in
golf carts. Those belonging to the brass sport the driver's name, like a fighter jet. Some
have multiple rows of seats, to chauffer groups of VIPs around the base. But all of them,
at least the ones I saw, have a Yamaha logo on the front.
Irony #2: A lot of the airshow performers chose bombastic music to accompany
their flying. And nobody writes more bombastic than Wagner, who was Hitler's favorite
composer. So ironies 1 and 2 are that some of the pilots drove to their airplanes and flew
to music designed by countries we designed their airplanes to defeat.
Irony #3: As the sun becomes hotter, people look for shade under the wings of the
largest airplanes. It's funny to see people gathered under these huge war machines like
they're big shade trees.
Ironly #4: When you visit Miramar it's hard to believe that aviation is less than 100
years old. It makes you feel good about mankind to spend the weekend watching gravity get
defied. The irony is that if you want to fly the fastest and most powerful aircraft that
man has ever designed, you have to agree to kill people with them.
But First, Let's Party!
Friday's party is a chance to meet other pilots with airplanes on the static line, and
visiting military pilots from all over the globe. This year they served beer from one of
the local microbreweries along with B*d and B*d Light. Those poor soldiers. It's one thing
to get shot at, it's another to have to drink B*d and B*d Light. I wonder how many AWOL's
just want a decent glass of beer.
Last year I griped about how the military kept all their data on yellow legal pads.
This year everything was printed out, grouped by aircraft type, etc. Maybe Oracle's deeper
into this than we think!!?
One fellow I talked to said he wouldn't be putting his airplane on the line because he
didn't want people climbing all over it all weekend. No factor. As soon as you're parked
you're roped off and only you decided who gets rope privledges. Depending on how nicely
they ask, I usually let people peek inside. It's up to you.
If you'd like to place your airplane on the static line, USMC Captain Randy Beck is
your man. (619) 537-4273 is the number I have for him...but remember, the base is
being BRAC-ed, so people are moving around. As I said in "The Last Fightertown Airshow,"
they're looking for interesting or unusual examples of GA airplanes. And there's something
interesting or unusual about practially all of them. Make your case. And if you go, look
for a 1974 Bellanca Viking and say "hi."