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Take off, eh? Farnborough Air Show 2008

Today, it was my turn to introduce another generation of Reeves-Hall (and a Popova) to the wonders of a magical airshow. Okay, probably more magical to me because of the nostalgia angle (hey, I am 40 now).

The parking situation wasn’t as bad as first expected – yes, there was a bit of a slow down on the roads at 10am, when we were arriving, but only for about 10 minutes. They had already shut the car park I was heading to – just 10 minutes before we arrived! The next car park was filling up fast; but we got a spot and took the double-decker bus to the gate. What a thrill for the boys to ride up front up top!

What was the first thing we did once inside the gate? Yes, ride the bouncy slides! And the old-fashioned wooden slide. They were fun; and we expected the queues just to lengthen during the day; so best to be on them now. The slide was even bigger than the one at my birthday party!

Then we really noticed it: the weather. It was bleeding freezing. And this was mid-July!? It barely got to 20 in the afternoon. And here I was without any jacket or pull-over (Katya did ask before we left home if I wanted one. I figured that it couldn’t be that cold…ha!). Update: the irony is that we all had sunburnt faces come Monday morning!

I love airshows. I haven’t been to one for many years, probably ever since my teens when I last saw one at the Canadian National Exhibition (C.N.E.) in Toronto. I still remember hearing the booming voice over the P.A. there saying “Ladies and Gentlemen…The Concorde!” — it was the first time I had ever seen it.

And so, it was fitting that the first plane in the show was the Airbus A380: the brand-new double-decker. I think it great that Tolii and Tosha saw it strutting its stuff. And I mean strutting: it banked like you’d never see it do in service. 

This was experimental craft no.4 — so no real passenger stuff was inside (as far as I know), and certainly not any passengers! It banked, it looped (okay, it didn’t but it did in my mind), it went fast, it went slow, and it landed. And boy was it ever quiet for what it was!

From the massive, to the minimal: Some parachutists. Ah, the peace: just the sound of the gale-force wind whipping past our frost-bitten ears. Good, they’ve all landed and tidied up their canopies. Now it was time for….

…some REALLY LOUD FIGHTER JETS. I’d tell you about them, but you wouldn’t hear me. Suffice to say, they impressed me – and somewhat the boys (and only slightly Katya; she liked the first one or two, then it became just another LOUD FIGHTER PLANE).

Thankfully, there were a few propeller planes to follow – they sounded like the purr of four kittens. Albeit kittens who’ve just grown into large lions.

The Red Arrows arrived, teased the crowd and landed. They would be back in a few hours to close the show.

We decided it was time for a stroll. Sure enough, the queues at the amusements were much longer. Unfortunately, they were so long (50 minutes’ wait to get onto the bungee trampoline) that we skipped them and headed along the site to the static aircraft displays. I was able to get a shot of Tolii standing in front of the A380. And then I bumped into one of the guys in my team from work. And then just 5 minutes later I bumped into another one. 

There were 80,000 visitors at the show today – what were the chances? Okay, they were 2 in 80,000 (probability and statistics were never my forte – my maths experts at work and home were quick to chastise me; unfortunately, they have not yet provided the correct answer).

Many of the pavilions were advertising how environmentally friendly their equipment was. I think it a bit ironic that military planes can be environmentally friendly: Our plane kills people, not trees! And it does it so much more quietly than last year. And, today only, you can buy 2, get 1 free.

By now, Tosha had dozed off in the push-chair. It was actually more than a “doze”. It was a full-fledged siesta complete with shut-the-lights-and-forget-the-noise. For he missed the loudest plane of all: the recently restored Avro Vulcan B-2. My goodness it was loud. And we were well away from the main runway, where it was flying over. It vibrated the ice cream stand near the toilets. Gosh help the cleaners who had to tidy up the loos after that thing flew past. I mean, really, how is one supposed to piss straight with that thing in the skies?! It was the antithesis of stealth. It was an in-your-face warfare machine.

Thank goodness, it finally landed.

I took Tolii into the solitary Russian hut in the hopes of inspiring him with some rockets from Katya’s homeland. A flop. They didn’t even have any stickers for his collection on his pull-over. Worse, none of their MiGs were going to fly in the airshow.

So, it was back to the grandstand to get ready to see the Red Arrows. Of course, we had to divert to the play area just to reassure Tolii that the queues had indeed gotten longer and not shorter during our absence. Tosha woke up: Guess he had to confirm the longer queues too.

There were some vintage aircraft flying about as we took our seats. The Douglas DC-6 reminded the granddad in front of us of his days as a youth. The commentator was saying how this kind of plane would whisk passengers to Australia in the 1950s (via about a dozen cities that it had to refuel in).

A bit of Canadiana crept into the show, too: A sea plane made in Quebec and which served in B.C. took to the skies and showed off its boat-like hull and floats. Tolii and Tosha loved the fact that the propellers were riding up high on the wings.

Then it was time.

Here they come! What a take off! The Red Arrows took to the skies in formation – all 9 of them.

They looped (yes, these guys really did), they banked, they went way, way up high, they turned and turned — all in perfect formation(s).

They even brought along colourful smoke: red, white and blue! The commentator said that each plane had 9 minutes of white smoke and 1 minute of the coloured.

Then, two at a time, they took turns scaring the pants off us as they flew straight at each other – WHOOSH! Whew, they missed!

So, they tried again. Another two lined up. On went the smoke. Straight at each other at over 400mph! Whoosh!

Sadly, after a mere 30 minutes, it was time for them to land, and to bring the Air Show to a close. 

It was five thirty already…where had the time gone?

The show wasn’t really over, though – there were many planes that now had to depart for their home base.

We watched as plane after plane took off. And here comes the A380 again! We were right up against the barrier to watch this time. Here it comes…WHOOSH! The freshly trimmed grass went flying everywhere and the wind nearly knocked us all over. But, damn if it wasn’t quiet (I guess it was more like “woosh” not “WHOOSH”).

Then a fire truck went whizzing down the runaway – yeah, like it can fly.

Thankfully, there was time left to go back to the bouncy slides and castles before queuing for the shuttle bus to take us back to the car park. And what a wait! We finally got on our way home at 8pm! Tolii fell asleep in the car half-way home; Tosha didn’t.

Next weekend there’s another airshow (Wallop’08)…but we won’t be going (several of the same planes; plus its our monthly power picnic!). There is always Paris next year; and Farnborough the year after that…we’ll pencil them in on the calendar, then.

Panorama showing grassy viewing area with grandstands seating behind (extra fee ticket required)

2 comments to Take off, eh? Farnborough Air Show 2008

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