As my daughter waited for her turn in the cockpit of the helicopter, I chatted lightly with the crew member monitoring the area. “How long does it take you to put all the switches back and get it ready to fly again?”
“Quite a few hours. And there were only two things I really didn’t want kids to touch. Thirty minutes ago when I was talking to someone and not paying attention, a kid touched one of them and now I’m going to have to flush the whole system.” He wasn’t complaining, just matter-of-factly explaining. Dollar signs came to mind – tax dollar signs. The finances, man hours and planning that go into an air show like the one we attended recently are beyond comprehension, yet the air show is engrained in American culture. The childhood memories of millions of Americans include visions of the Navy Blue Angels or Air Force Thunderbirds. Americans paid for the aircraft – it’s nice they also get to see them perform. Fortunately, many air shows are free to the public. That means even non-taxpayers can watch the show of force or sit in a cockpit of a military craft otherwise off-limits.
This memorable event on the West Coast reminded me of a similar event over a decade ago. One of my favorite memories of my early college days is of riding bikes with my uncle and cousins from their house in Evanston, Illinois along the north shore to the renowned Chicago Air and Water show. That was over ten years ago, yet I still thrill at thinking of the crowd of millions and the thundering of jet engine afterburners. The Chicago experience is the largest free event in the United States of its kind. Take the kids to Chicago or another local air show for an experience they’ll never forget.
Big and small, air shows take place across the United States year round. The Chicago Air and Water Show takes place in August. Marine Corps Naval Air Station Mira Mar hosts the aforementioned air show in the fall. This website provides a fairly comprehensive database of air shows in the U.S. and around the world.