Last weekend, there was an air show at the Pease International Tradeport, where I work and take lunch walks with my friend and co-worker, Cherie Ripperton. Cherie’s been on vacation for what seems like forever and she missed a visit from the Blue Angels.
I’ve never seen a proper Blue Angels’ performance. There was a naval air base two towns over from my hometown, but we never went to the air shows. A lot of my classmates were Navy kids and sometimes I’d go swimming on the base with them; I was always fascinated by the sentry guard at the gate who would give a proper and precise white-gloved salute to the station wagon hauling us.
According to the literature and the local papers, Blue Angel 7 arrived Tuesday night; the rest of the jet-fueled celestial choir screamed into Portsmouth on Wednesday night. It was smoking hot on Thursday, but I hit the roads of the Tradeport anyway and was treated to a free performance of the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. They fly at speeds ranging from 120 to 700 miles per hour. In comparison, the speed of sound is approximately 768 miles per hour.
The first thing I saw when I walked out of the Big Corporation’s doors and looked into the sky was a lone hawk circling some pine trees in the distance. The roar of the jet engines was just ironic background music for that bird. He was not flying at 120 miles per hour, but he was soaring.
The practice session was “fantastic” in a “seemingly or seemingly conceived by unrestrained fancy” sense of the word (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). I tried not to be a gawker as I looked into the sky and took a picture.
When I would look away from the flight line and look in the direction of my forward momentum, there was always some natural aviator in my line of sight. Dragon flies, sparrows, crows, hawks, and even a few seagulls were flying around the Tradeport and they were oblivious to the near-Mach 1 sound and fury. If they could talk, they might have said “we taught you everything you know about flight.”
Apparently, the air show was a success, with approximately 60,000 people visiting this cramped little strip of New Hampshire granite. I read somewhere that air shows at the former air base near my hometown used to boast of crowds of 150,000.
On Monday, the break down and load out of the show was on its last legs, with trailer trucks full of tents and toilets making a slow pull down Aviation Avenue. I had to dodge a few dump trucks and puddles and then decided to walk over to the fence at the old Pan Am hangar. Looking through the chain-links, I saw Blue Angels 1 through 6 parked on the runway, side by side and rumbling. All at once, they revved their engines simultaneously and billows of exhaust smoke came out of their engines. It must have been part of their take-off checklist. Then they left, in two sets of three.
I looked up into the sky to get a final look, but there were big, low clouds on the horizon and the only thing I could see were two dragonflies floating carelessly, having effortless fun. I could almost hear them laughing and saying “no need to speed.”
Sure enough, there is no need to speed today.