2006/10/14-15 MCAS Miramar Air Show
|I visited the MCAS Miramar air show on October 14th
and 15th. Miramar is located just outside San Diego, and known as the
base in which the movie TOP GUN was filmed. The base used to be a
Naval Air Station, but now it is maintained by the Marine Corps. It
was my third time to come to the Miramar air show. The first time was
in 1995 when I was training for private airman certificate in Arizona.
I used a weekend to visit San Diego and saw the American air show for the
first time. I was totally impressed by its scale, variation of the
airplanes, and intensity. In Japanese air show, I usually have to wait
15 to 30 minutes between flight demonstrations. But, in Miramar
something was always flying, and there was virtually no waiting. The
second time was in 1997, when I visited ACM SIGGRAPH conference. I
extended my stay for several days and visited the Miramar air show again.
I was deeply impressed again that time.
So, this time was my third time to come to the Miramar air show. I used my United Airlines mileage to buy the airplane tickets, and I couldn't choose a comfortable time for departure. I had to leave Pittsburgh on Thursday at 6am in the morning. I had to wake up at 4am, left home at 4:30, and arrived at the Pittsburgh airport at 5am. I had to change an airplane at Chicago. (By the way, the Chicago O'Hare airport was in a blizzard and the tower was calling 3,500ft visibility.) I arrived at San Diego at about 11am.
It was too early for checking in the hotel, so I drove to U.S.S. Midway Museum. Last time I couldn't take much time to see inside, but this time I had plenty of time. I saw some tables and some preparation of a party on the flight deck of Midway. I supposed a veterans' reunion party or something like that was planned coinciding with the air show. From the flight deck, I could see the aircraft carrier CV-76 Ronald Reagan on the other side of the bay. After seeing the museum, I headed to the hotel and checked in. On the way to the hotel, I saw six F-18s of the Blue Angels practicing over the Miramar base.
The hotel I used for this trip was Best Western Seven Seas. This was the same hotel I used in 1995 and 1997, and I liked it then. This hotel was boasting free high-speed internet connection. I thought I could send and receive E-Mails and upload quick report of the Miramar air show. However, when I connected my laptop to the DSL modem in the room, my laptop could not establish a connection. As a programmer, I tried all the possible configuration and concluded that it was a problem of ISP. I called the front desk, and they sent a technician who knew nothing about the network. He screwed up the matter even more. My laptop could at least acquire an IP address 192.168.0.3, but after he did something, my laptop no longer could obtain any IP address at all. He left a phone number of the technical support of ISP and gone. I called the number, the tech support guy told me to do exactly what I did by myself, and nothing had changed. The problem was simple. Bad maintenance. I probably will never use this hotel again, and I don't recommend this hotel. I was forced to use a stone age technology, 56k modem, during the stay.
When I came in 1995 and 1997, Friday show was not open to public and was only for those who were working for the military. So, I supposed this time was the same, and I planned to go to Sea World with my wife. In Sea World San Diego, we were looking forward to seeing emperor penguins. We can see different types of penguins that can live in a warm environment at local aquariums, but emperor penguins can live only in a cold environment, and we cannot see very often. We both liked the movie "March of the Penguins" and were looking forward to seeing real ones. However, when I checked the Sea World web site (with 56k modem connection), I found that the penguin pool was closed. We cancelled the plan, and changed the destination to the San Diego zoo.
The San Diego zoo was about 15 minutes drive from the hotel. The main attraction was pandas. It had two adult pandas and a cub. We could see pandas in Japan, too. However, probably we need to stay in a looooong line, and we would be able to see them just a short time. In contrast, here in the San Diego zoo, there was only a short line to see pandas, and we could stay a little longer if we wished because it was not crowded at all. It might be a little more crowded in the weekends though. In general everything is crowded in Japan. I like this relaxed environment of the U.S. We spend almost all day in the zoo.
Actually, I had a severe pain in my left foot. It started when I got off the airplane at Chicago, and I was dragging my left foot when I was walking in the zoo. The pain intensified on Saturday. Luckily, there's no problem in driving, so I left the hotel at 7:30am and arrived at the air show parking a little before 8am. I took a shuttle bus to move to the ramp area from the parking.
Despite the foot pain, I was walking around to see airplanes that I cannot see here in Pittsburgh. Then it started raining, and I took cover under a B-1 bomber. The cockpit of the B-1 bomber was open to public, and I wanted to look inside, but there was a long line, and I gave up. 10 or 15 minutes later the rain had stopped. So, I walked to the grand stand.
The grand stand is (I think) unique to the Miramar air show. I've never seen similar seating in other air shows. It is just like a seating of a ball park or a football stadium, and benches are stacked together like stairs. A ticket for the grand stand was $10 per person per day. I took the third row from the top, and I could look down the airplanes on the runway. By the way, the Miramar air show is admission free, but due to the grand stand and the tents of the other seating, flight demonstrations are hardly visible from the static display area. So, unless you pay, all you can see are static displays.
When I sat down, F-117 taxied out to the runway.
After F-117 fly-by, MV-22 taxied out! Actually, my two main targets of
this air show were F-22 and MV-22 in action. Now, I had one of them!
After MV-22, Marine Air-Ground Task Force showed a ground assault operation
After the demonstration of Marine Air-Ground Task Force, civilian teams
took a turn. The Patriots jet aerobatic team, P-51 Mustang, and then
living legend Sean D. Tucker filled the sky.
After AV-8B Harrier demonstration, it was the time for Blue Angels!
Unfortunately, scattered clouds remained over the Miramar base, Blue Angels
chose to perform a low show, which skips or modifies some high altitude
maneuvers. However, I noticed that they sometimes mixed high altitude
maneuvers when clouds permitted.
F-22 fly-by was cancelled with no announcement. The weather was good enough for the most of the air show performances. I cannot believe the fly-by was cancelled due to the weather. Now I suspect that F-22 is just an airplane of myth. F-22 may not really exist. I probably should go to Langley AFB air show next year to clear this suspicion!
The pain in my left foot had just intensified. So, I didn't walk
around, and I headed straight to the grand stand. So I could secure
the second raw from the top, and also I could see some performances that I
missed the day before.
I was expecting that the cloud would clear up by the afternoon. But,
in reality the cloud never disappeared. I saw clear sky to the west of
Miramar over the ocean, but it didn't spread to overhead. Actually the
wind intensified and wind chill felt just like winter. I never
expected San Diego was colder than Pittsburgh. Due to low cloud, the
Blue Angels performed a flat show, which consists mostly of formation fly-bies.
It was dark and cold, but I enjoyed the show. At least I saw MV-22 for the first time. But, I caught cold and had a fever. So, I didn't go out much on the next day. I seemed to be recovering. However, on the way back to Pittsburgh, the connecting flight delayed for several hours at Washington D.C. And the airport was cold. As a result, my cold was worsened. When I came back to the apartment, I had 100F fever. I had to stay in bed for another two days.
The Miramar air show was the biggest air show among all air shows I visited in 2006 and our last air show of this season. I'm planning to go to the air shows within driving distance from Pittsburgh, plus one air show that is far from Pittsburgh. The top candidate is Nellis AFB.
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