This past weekend, we took our three boys to the Great State of Maine Air Show at the Brunswick Executive Airport, and I noticed a few things.
Many things change; some things don’t
We took our older boys to an air show in Pensacola, Florida, when they were 3- and 5- years old. Back then, a day at the air show was more about depleting the boys of all their energy than anything else. The kids had two objectives: to bounce in the inflatable houses and to eat sno-cones. Everything else was just in the way. The boys never looked up at the actual air show, and I awkwardly pushed their stroller through crowds of people straining to see airplanes in the bright sky because my boys just wanted to go in the jumpy house again.
This weekend, while my crew (now 16-, 14- and 10-years old) kept their eyes on the sky and talked about aileron rolls and sonic booms, I looked over at the moms who were still waiting in line at the inflatable slide (which was supposed to look like a space shuttle but kind of looked like a big hotdog – just me?). I noticed their overstuffed diaper bags and the look on their face that said, “I could have been doing this at home instead of in the blazing heat.” I remember the feeling well.
But it’s true what they say about the days being long and the years being short, because before you know it, you’re at an air show with older kids, and although you’re still the family’s pack mule and designated drinks go-getter, no one cares about the jumpy tents or your “embarrassing” attempts to talk to strangers and/or take selfies. You’re still kind of alone, just in a different way. And you think, “I could be doing this same thing at home instead of here in the blazing heat.”
Man will stop at nothing to put on a show
One of the performances at the air show included Kent Pietsch, a professional stunt pilot, landing his Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet on top of a moving RV. Yes, an RV. I would have loved to be part of the conversation that came up with this idea: “Let’s land an airplane on top of a moving car … No, an RV … Which will also be moving … But we’re going to need a little flat board on top of the RV to do it.”
It reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s old joke about NASA taking a car up to the moon: “What the hell were they doing with a car on the moon? You’re on the moon already. Isn’t that far enough? There was no more male idea in the history of the Universe than ‘Why don’t we fly up to the moon and drive around’?”
When the announcer said what the Jelly Belly aircraft was about to do, I said, “Well, that’s kind of over-the-top and silly, isn’t —” Then I turned toward my family and saw that every single of one of them was staring at the sky with their mouths open.
My Boys Haven’t Had Much Exposure to Naval Aviation
My dad was an F-14 pilot and I lived in Pensacola, Florida, for more than five years while my husband was a Navy flight instructor. So air shows and all that comes with them feel pretty ordinary to me. I took for granted that the experience would be for my sons, too. I was walking through crowds of people, right past the static displays and souvenir booths because I had one mission: see the Blue Angels and then get out of the parking lot before the other 2,000 people.
My boys, on the other hand have lived in Maine for nine years. During that time, NAS Brunswick closed and the air show, which was run by the military until 2011, has only happened a handful of times under the direction of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. My sons have still been exposed to the Navy in general — through trips to see my husband at the Pentagon and Newport, Rhode Island, before his retirement this summer — but Brunswick’s closing created a void of Naval Aviation for much of the Northeast.
My children wanted to see all the displays, and they even wanted to wait in an excessive line to get inside a CH-53, a helicopter they could have gone inside any day when they were little and lived in a large military town.
That’s when I realized: Even my boys, whose entire family is connected to Naval Aviation, were awed by the Great State of Maine Air Show. Their eyes were opened to possibilities that they might never have considered before until they saw the aircraft up close.
So imagine the impact on children who saw the airshow this weekend and had no prior exposure to military aviation? Guaranteed, there was some young person in that crowd who saw the Blue Angels screech pass and thought, “That’s what I’m going to do when I grow up.”
And that person’s mother was either standing nearby with an overloaded stroller or resisting the urge to take another embarrassing selfie of her family.