A few weeks ago, we went to the Pensacola air show held on Pensacola Beach. This was going to be the first air show without the Navy Blue Angels in many years. It was also my first air show in quite some time. It got me thinking about the many years when aviation and air shows were a big part of my life. I had dreamed of flying from an early age and planned on going to the Air Force Academy, if at all possible. Long story short, it very nearly worked out but for a lost election.
I ended up in the Coast Guard with a first duty station in Houston. After finding out where the office was and locating a place to live, I started taking flying lessons. An obsession was born! For a very long time I lived and breathed flying in my spare time. I obtained private, commercial, instrument, multi-engine and instructor ratings. It seemed that if I was not working or sleeping, I was flying, hanging around airports and going to air shows. No distance was too far.
During four years in Oklahoma, I was running a small aircraft leasing company in my spare time. We owned and operated four aircraft. I was giving flight lessons, doing air charters, plane repossessions, air freight and anything else that would keep me in the air. That was when the obsession peaked. When the time came to transfer to a new duty station, I had to decide to move on or leave the Coast Guard and give in to the obsession. Luckily, I stuck with the Coast Guard.
It did not end my flying but the obsession was waning. My last steady flying was in the early eighties, when I actually did some flying for the Coast Guard in Cleveland, both in USCG equipment and charter planes. The greatest pleasure I had from that was annoying the Coast Guard aviators that I ran over to get the job.
So back to the air show in Pensacola. It was not the usual setting on an airport, but the planes would be flying just off the beach. This time due to budget cuts there would be no heavy military aircraft. We found front row seats in a beach bar with some shade. The first problem was when our ice cold beers arrived , they were warm. Upon complaining, we were told that they would be glad to get us different ones, but they would likely not be any colder. So that is one big difference with beach air shows already. There were a limited number of performers and the first few were at best boring. One small jet actually did five flybys straight and level each time. A couple of others were pretty good, but there was just no spirit in the efforts. It seemed as if many of the folks there were just wanting to be on the beach. Some hardly even looked up. Compared to the many shows of the three decades I went regularly, this was a big bust. If the Navy Blue Angels cannot return next year, it is going to be very sad.
As we await the birth of our grandson, there might be time to review my next intense hobby, but certainly not an obsession-sailboats!