Earlier this month Altus hosted Air Power Over Altus, our base’s air show! Held every three years, it’s probably the biggest event Altus AFB throws. The Altus air show is part festival, part show of skill, part recruitment effort, and part community outreach.
In spite of being an Air Force spouse, I’d never seen an air show before. Living on base I see our planes in the air every day, but I’d never watched the tricks, dogfights and skill demonstrations that come with an official air show.
Best of all? My parents planned their visit to overlap with the show! My dad has always had a fascination with planes, so I knew he would nerd out over the whole thing. I was mostly excited because my parents were visiting and hadn’t put a lot of thought into the air show.
It was fantastic! The summer heat had only lessened in the past week, so the weather was perfect for a day outside. We arrived early to explore the planes open to walk throughs. In spite of the lines, we still went into most of the ones on display. In addition to our local C-17 and KC-135, they also had a B-29, B-1, Osprey, and several others! My grandfather was a navigator in a B-29 back in the day, so it was pretty cool to see that one in particular. Apparently the one we toured is one of only two still flying!
Different flying acts took the sky throughout the day. Some were private fliers who toured air shows, performing stunts or publicizing their own flying schools. One airline sponsored an act as publicity, which sort of cracked me up. (FYI, Air Wisconsin is hiring and they’re trying to get the word out. Or so I hear.)
They also had a demonstration of KC-135s refueling capabilities. I imagine this is unique to our bases only because that’s one of our planes. But it was pretty amazing to see how they connect in midair – can you imagine flying with that level of precision, in tandem with another pilot in a different plane?!?! Once I got to try this out on a simulator, and it was ridiculously difficult to even get in the ballpark of the other plane, let alone close enough to connect a tiny tube to it! One more reason it’s good I’m not a pilot.
Another act was Tora! Tora! Tora!, which performs a recreation of the Pearl Harbor attacks. The show has more than just historic planes: it’s complete with pyrotechnics and simulated dogfights. To be honest, I was a little confused as to why they’re re-enacting one of the worst attacks on U.S. soil. Why not the battle of Midway, or any other war action where we actually fought back? But having seen it, I understand a bit more – the story is told in context of being a lynchpin moment in Air Power history in this country and closely followed by the story of the Doolittle raids.
Other highlights include: Wings of Blue, the Air Force Academy’s Parachute Team, a glider that has the capability to stay in the air for 6-8 hours without an engine, and a surprise appearance of a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber! Pretty cool stuff, even for the relatively uninformed like me. The glider reminded me so much of paragliding over the Alps – where can I sign up to try that out??
The grand finale was the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are the Air Force’s premier demonstration group. It’s a bit of a sore spot within the Air Force that people are usually more familiar with the Blue Angels (the Navy’s demonstration group) than our Thunderbirds, but having seen them in action, I can’t imagine the Blue Angels being any better.
After so much buildup to their performance, they finally went up! They do most of their show as a group of four, with two solo fliers. Each do stunts, flying in tight formation and shifting their layout mid-flight effortlessly.
We had a fantastic time at Air Power Over Altus! My dad left already planning to find another air show to check out closer to home.
Nearly every base puts on an air show every few years. They’re generally open to the public, so if you live near a base check one out! If you go, plan to bring lots of water and your own chairs – usually it’s along the flight line, with a few grandstands but not many. Plan to get there when it opens to stake out a good spot and see the static displays (plane you can walk into) before they get crowded.
We had a blast at Altus air show! Have you ever been to an air show?
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