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

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. AVwebs Joe Godfrey was there, and offers his unique commentary on the goings on. Fun reading.


PlacesIknow. 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 thisyear to Oceano, VA and Fallon, NV. So last year’s airshow was the last Fightertownairshow. 1997’s airshow was the last NAS Miramar airshow. The base becomes USMCASMiramar on October 1st, 1997, as part of the BRAC realignment.

Local residents have grown used to flights of F14’s streaking overhead, and actuallytake some pride in briefly interrupting a phone call because of the noise. Many of thosesame residents, however, are up in arms about trading fighter jet noise for helicopternoise. Choppers are every bit as important to the war effort as fighter jets, but let’sface 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 notbox office. If Hollywood makes a movie about military helicopters, you can bet thatinstead 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 amilitary supporter as you’ll find on Capitol Hill, hates the idea of fighter jocks leavingtown but admits it’s a fait accompli. To revisit one BRAC decision is to revisitthem all, because the whole idea was to remove the typical pork disbursement from thedecisions.

Last Year’s Last Show

Last year was fun so I didn’t hesitate this year to sign up for a space on the staticline. I even asked a fellow Viking owner based at Palomar to join me. We blended in with alittle group of wood and fabric airplanes to form "termite row." Last year Ilearned that ideal airshow parking is near cold water, shade and the portapotties. Thisyear I learned that ideal airshow parking is as far away from the speaker stand aspossible, 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. Theywere spaced about every 2,000 feet along the runway. It was just the (bad) luck of thedraw that both Vikings wound up right in the path of one of the speakers. If I hadn’t hadto slow to follow that Katana….

I’m in the advertising business. I use my airplane to fly to meetings and recordingsessions, but I also use it, as a lot of us do, as a hobby to get my mind away from mybusiness…to recharge my creative batteries so I can tackle projects with a full head ofsteam. Maybe that’s why I hate to see bad advertising taking over the airshow circuit. Andthis may have been happening for a while, but since I wasn’t forced to listen last year itdidn’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 oneof 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 Sprintdidn’t like the idea of all those potential customers watching Sean Tucker’s1-800-COLLECT-sponsored airplane performing his amazing show for the crowd. So Sean gotthe boot. I was sorry to see him go, but as good as Sean is, I wasn’t disappointed not tohave 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 godand 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 makea big deal about it. Clearly the classiest sponsorship on the circuit. Oracle is also aclassy sponsor. They sponsor Wayne Handley’s Raven, but Wayne’s act isn’t littered with abunch of drivel about how the wrong relational database can turn your career into anImmelman. They just let him fly.

There’s a tie for unclassiest sponsor. I guess Kodak can be fogiven for wanting you tothink that every wingover is a Kodak moment. But there were some sponsor connections thatstretch the imagination. Cool Cuts are little bite-size vegetables for kids. Theysponsored the helicopter demo. Thank goodness we were spared the sight of a giant carrotbeing sliced by a Sea Knight. Chevrolet sponsored the Marine invasion demo. The announcersurged spectators to test drive a Chevy today because it’s "as American as theMarines." Could I make this up?? And is there supposed to be a connection betweenwatching loops by The Red Baron Frozen Pizza Stearman Squadron and your desire for atriangle 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 daywhen 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) ingolf carts. Those belonging to the brass sport the driver’s name, like a fighter jet. Somehave 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 accompanytheir flying. And nobody writes more bombastic than Wagner, who was Hitler’s favoritecomposer. So ironies 1 and 2 are that some of the pilots drove to their airplanes and flewto 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 thelargest airplanes. It’s funny to see people gathered under these huge war machines likethey’re big shade trees.

Ironly #4:  When you visit Miramar it’s hard to believe that aviation is less than 100years old. It makes you feel good about mankind to spend the weekend watching gravity getdefied. The irony is that if you want to fly the fastest and most powerful aircraft thatman 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, andvisiting military pilots from all over the globe. This year they served beer from one ofthe local microbreweries along with B*d and B*d Light. Those poor soldiers. It’s one thingto get shot at, it’s another to have to drink B*d and B*d Light. I wonder how many AWOL’sjust 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 deeperinto this than we think!!?

One fellow I talked to said he wouldn’t be putting his airplane on the line because hedidn’t want people climbing all over it all weekend. No factor. As soon as you’re parkedyou’re roped off and only you decided who gets rope privledges. Depending on how nicelythey 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 isyour man. (619) 537-4273 is the number I have for him…but remember, the base isbeing 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 somethinginteresting or unusual about practially all of them. Make your case. And if you go, lookfor a 1974 Bellanca Viking and say "hi."