The Last NAS Miramar Airshow (And This Time We Really Mean It!)

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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.

PlacesI 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 decisions.

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."