The United States is returning to the normalcy. The recovery is going beyond my prediction. Many locations are not requiring a mask any more. In fact, some states were quicker than CDC in getting rid of mask mandates, but no new surge was observed in such states.
Earlier this year, when Latrobe Westmorland County airshow was announced, it was going to be a drive-in air show. If they knew it was going to recover this quick, it could have been a regular air show. Nonetheless, it was such a nice feeling to be able to go to an air show and watch Blue Angels again. I once wondered if I could ever go to an air show again.
Since Latrobe is just 50 minutes drive from Pittsburgh, I went there to see practice sessions. Sometimes Blue Angels fly in as early as Tuesday. I suppose that was when they did a flyover above Pittsburgh downtown. This time, however, they were to fly in Annapolis Naval Academy on Wednesday. It could have been Wednesday afternoon, but a local friend told they didn't fly in on Wednesday. I was fully expecting them to fly in sometime in the afternoon when the airshow temporary flight restrictions is in effect.
I was wrong. I left home about 9am. There were some construction delay, and I came close to the airport, when I saw six airplanes made a very low approach to runway 24 of Latrobe. D**n it! I should have left 10 minutes earlier! It was too late. I had to see six airplanes landing from my car. The last airplane landed exactly when I parked my car and stopped my engine. The arrival was 10am.
As soon as the clock hit noon, temporary flight restriction was in effect, Blue Angels #1 to #4 took off for the first practice flight. It was more like a surveillance flight to check landmarks and surrounding terrains. The weather was perfect for the airshow. Blue Angels airplanes were beautiful in front of the blue sky.
This year, Blue Angels changed their airplanes from F-18C/D, also known as Legacy Hornets, to F-18E/F Super Hornets, or also known as Rhinos. Rhinos are larger than Legacy Hornets. But, from the distance, it is difficult to distinguish. The most visible change is the shape of the air intake. Legacy Hornets have round air intakes. Rhinos' air intakes are rectangular. I think the letter "US NAVY" on the side of the airplane became larger also.
Day 1. For some reason, Latrobe Airshow is good at picking a bad-weather day. The forecast for Saturday was pretty depressing. Not just cloud and rain, but the temperature was like 50F. So, I took my light jacket. Well, actually it was obviously 40s. I was prepared for 50s, but not for 40s. I don't understand how the forecast in 2021 misses the temperature by 10F. I tried to take warm inside the car, but still I was freezing while outside.
Bad weather is not all bad for the air show. The high humidity tends to make water vapor along the shock cone on high-speed passes. As expected F-22 showed a good shock cone. I was hoping to see the same on the Sneak Pass of the Blue Angels. However, the weather was too bad even for a Flat Show. Blue Angels #5 took off for the weather surveillance, but the show was cancelled. Other five airplanes did not take off, and #5 just landed after making one lap around the airport. #5 landed trailing a nice vapor behind.
Day 2. The weather forecast was saying the temperature will be 10F higher than Day 1. The same jacket should have been good enough if the forecast had been true. But, I took a bit thicker jacket. Then it was colder. The temperature was no higher. It probably was colder. How come a weather forecast in year 2021 misses the temperature that much? I had to make sure I don't get sick from this extreme cold temperature.
On Day 1, the air show announcer mentioned about Rob Holland. But, he did not fly on Day 1. He does all sorts of aerobatics, but one thing significant is roll-on-landing. Blue Angels #5 does roll on take off, in which the airplane leaves the ground, and immediately makes a barrel roll. But, in his case, after all other maneuvers, at the end of the routine, he lands, and pulls back up to the air, makes an aileron roll, and then really lands. That was impressive enough for me to remember his name. He took to the sky on Day 2, and did his signature roll-on-landing at the end of his routine.
And, the shock cone was again nicely visible during the high-speed pass of F-22. So was during Sneak Pass of Blue Angels. I wish the sky to be just a little bit brighter, but still it was impressive. I don't remember if it was the same before, but this time Blue Angels did Delta Flat Pass relatively slow speed with flaps down. I think it is a very good showcase of the delta formation. All six pilots visible. I think one thing missing in the regular high show of the military demonstration team is a close-up of the delta formation. Delta Loop tends to start before the show center. Delta Roll starts from relatively high altitude, and very far away at the top of the roll. The last Delta Pitch Up usually breaks before reaching the show center. So, when the sky is clear, it is very difficult to take a good picture of all six airplanes from the ground. (Well, I tried on Thursday during the practice, but I was using too-long a lens to capture all six airplanes :-P )
I also did pull-up challenge at the Marine Corps tent, and push-up challenge at the Army tent to win a lanyard, a protein shake bottle, and a T-shirt. Army T-shirt was on the bargain. Just 10 push-ups, which was too easy. My goal was to be able to do 20 pull-ups, but this time I could do 11. I could do 15 before the pandemic, so evidently I was losing my physical fitness even though I was trying to maintain it. But, it's a good motivation to do training again.
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