Sunday, June 17, 2007


After a week of heavy rain leading up to the Fargo AirSho, organizers were getting a little nervous; advance (nonrefundable) ticket sales were slow. “Whether we put a show on or not, we have $300,000 worth of expense,” one of the coordinators told the Forum. “All we ask is that people take the risk with us.”

The appeal to Fargo's community spirit proved unnecessary, as Saturday morning was beautiful, and about 15,000 people showed up to see the sights, the air show's best day ever.

Also helping was publicity from the Navy's Blue Angels, who took flight practice at low altitudes all over Fargo this past week, providing a window-rattling running reminder that this town was about to have an air show. Jen and I had lunch on the south side of town on Thursday, and the formation of four Angels swept over several times as we ate. Our waitress said the day before they had come by so low and loud they caused sympathetic vibrations in the kitchen's exhaust hoods, which had scared the hell out of one of the cooks. But she said this with a smile on her face – I get the impression that people thought it was pretty cool. The lunchtime flyover did provide the final bit of convincing I needed to drag the family to the show.

I laid down the rules for the kids as we took the shuttle bus from the parking lot: "No matter who asks you, no matter how nicely they ask, no one is joining the Air Force or Navy today. Got that?" We found a relatively dry spot in some still-soggy grass, and set up on our blanket:

One of the planes demonstrated was the Air Force's A-10 Thunderbird II. The announcer claimed the plane featured "devastatingly good looks." Nice try. Even I know that the A-10 – better known as the "Warthog" – is as ugly as it is effective. And boy, is it effective. Up at the top of this post is the A-10 flying in tandem with the P-51 Mustang, a legendary – and good-looking – fighter plane from WWII.

We were also treated to a B-52 flyby:

The announcer encouraged us to walk around the rest of the show, as we could see the action from anywhere, as they had "The world's largest theater screen – the big blue North Dakota sky."

Katie and Joey and I took a look around the displays. They crawled into a few helicopter cockpits and then took turns controlling a missile battery:

I gotta say, I had not seen that before. Best thing was, there were no lines – they just walked into the cockpits or grabbed the stick and started aiming.

Show organizers zipped around in GEM electric vehicles and on oversized Segways with rugged all-terrain tires, the latter being something I had not seen before. One display as we walked in was a bunch of really big pieces of farming equipment. I tried to convince Joey that they were airplanes, not tractors. "We're at an airshow, Joe. Why would they have tractors here?" I almost had him going.

The highlight of the show was, of course, the Blue Angels:

It had been unclear for awhile whether they would perform, as they had lost an Angel in an airshow crash in April. They apparently asked an alumnus to return, and performed with all six slots filled.

The Blue Angels are kind of a funny thing. They're very fast, and very loud, and they like to show off how closely they can pass each other, and how closely they can fly next to each other, often with one plane upside down. But something seemed missing. Maybe it's because these guys are flying fighter jets that are so capable that they can easily do what used to be impossible, or maybe it's because they're such superior pilots that they make it look easy. But somehow their performance came off as kind of sterile rather than thrilling. It was cool to see once, but I'm not sure one would get much out of seeing them again. In some ways, seeing them buzz the town the week before was cooler, as it was unexpected.

Here they are toward the end of their show, doing what I think is called the "Delta Break." I've seen film of a tighter cross, but this was plenty tight for me:

Little-known Blue Angels fact: the group's name stems from one of its founders' spotting an advertisement in 1946 in The New Yorker for the city's popular "Blue Angel" nightclub.

The AirSho was a cool outing. Having said that, it was overwhelmingly, if not surprisingly, militaristic. A few civilians showed up to put their stunt planes through their paces – and they were pretty impressive – but the bulk of the show was showing off machines designed for killin'. Having said that, the A-10 was the only plane for which its description centered on its firepower; the flying abilities of the others were impressive enough that we didn't need to dwell on their killing capacities.

After the show was done, the five of us were treated to a miracle of efficiency: we strolled to the front gate, hopped onto the first bus that pulled up, were taken directly to our parking lot, and zipped right out. "This is just the perfect-sized town for any kind of event like this," Jen said on the bus. (By contrast, the Joint Services Open House at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland draws hundreds of thousands of people annually, and creates traffic havoc in and around Washington, D.C. We had never mustered the courage to go when we were back home; it's convenient that even for Fargo's popular events you don't need to be brave, you can just show up.)

On Sunday, as Katie, Joey and I were out for a Father's Day bike ride, the Blue Angels treated us to a show in the skies above us as we rode north. "Angels at 10 o'clock!" Katie cried out as the diamond formation came into view. Joey joyfully rang his bicycle bell in an effort to get their attention he fully knew was futile. We were lucky to be on a very straight road, as our eyes were skyward for a good portion of the ride. Heading home later, we saw two Angels streak off to the south and disappear into the clouds, presumably heading for their next show.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my, those evil military folks. Perhaps you, in your soft-headed, feel good, buy-the-world-a-coke liberalism think we can defend our country with harsh words and a hard look? moron.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

hmmm... I'm re-reading my post, and I don't see the word "evil" anywhere. You seem to be the one equating the word "militaristic" with "evil," not me. Shame on you.

My point was, some of the cool airplanes are just that, cool airplanes. Some of them, however, exist because they are are killing machines. Take what you like from that observation, but I certainly wasn't jamming anything down your throat.

Believe me, when I'm jamming one of my opinions down your throat, you'll know it.

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is always interesting to note how quickly pro-war conservatives resort to name calling. It is even more interesting to see how far the bar of provocation has been lowered. "War planes are killing machines? Thanks, liberal numbskull! The terrorists just won, thanks to your post! ('Course you won't be reading about that on liberal CNN, where they still perversely think the Preznit has something to do with the success or failure of national defense issues.)"

The idea, here, is to make you re-think even the most bland of observations. If the anonymous neo-con made you think, even for a mere second, that perhaps you crossed the line with this post on a family blog, he's advanced his cause. Which is to bully people, with relentless flack, into censoring their own thoughts; into, that is, getting you to do their job for them. If, in your next post, you take something out as perhaps too controversial (like, e.g., an aside noting that cluster bombs make for poor house-warming gifts), the anonymous neo-con has won the battle.

I know this isn't a political blog, but then saying war planes are for killing isn't a particularly political statement, just as saying "the constitution does not give the preznit dictatorial powers" used to be pretty noncontroversial. Until these foax who worship our current war preznit came along and decreed that only the preznit can say what the constitution sez the preznit can do and anyone else who expresses a contrary opinion is as bad as Osama himself ... and possibly even as bad as a "liberal" blogger.

By the way, nice revisionist work on the black mountains. "Indians!" Pfft! Everyone knows the party line that says "Indians" were on this land before us white foax is a myth, like global warming and evolution and gravity! Try to keep such liberal claptrap off this family site in the future!

tom g.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Mark Silver said...

Evil-shmeevil. Did you see that earlier post of Tom taking out perfectly innocent clay pigeons? And laughing while doing so?

We all have a choice: either fear Tom as he rightfully deserves given his dual prowess at law and firearms, or invite him over more often. Or both.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those were clay pigeons?! I thought they were real live ones! This changes everything!

Tom Moore, you are a monster! What's next - the California raisins? Better watch out! This one looks like he's about to draw! O, the claymanity!


6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Threatening Raisin

10:15 AM  

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