A first for me at the weekend. My first airshow, that is. The Scottish National Airshow, at the National Museum of Flight, to be specific. Been to the Museum before (it’s good, incidentally, should you ever be in the area), but never to the annual Airshow before.
Conclusion? Airshows are good. But also that the banal predictability of male responses means that some bits are gooder than others. It’s kind of discouraging (but also kind of comforting, in a self-identity sort of way) just how much the psyche of so many average adult males, such as yours truly, responds in the same way as that of a twelve year old to certain stimuli.
We’ll get to the stimuli in question in a minute, but first some admittedly amateurish photos.
A Fairey Swordfish, for starters. One of the most charismatic old-school aircraft there, imho, complete with (dummy, thankfully) torpedo:
And then these folks, the Breitling Wingwalkers. Watching them really is a bit like being transported back to the 40s or 50s or whenever this whole wingwalking thing was in its heyday:
And in many ways the oddest, vaguely surreal element of the whole day, a genuine Vietnam Vet Huey sitting in a field just outside Edinburgh, beneath by then rather ominous skies, waiting to do its thing:
It’s earned its retirement, that helicopter, since it apparently survived over 100 flights and well over 500 combat hours in Vietnam.
You can see much, much better photos of the Airshow than mine, of all these and many more aircraft, over here, by the way.
I don’t know how many fly-bys and displays there were in all – fifteen or twenty, probably – and pretty much all of them were in one way or another interesting, beautiful, cool. Those wingwalkers, for instance (apologies in advance for mildly shaky, even more amateurish filming):
I mean, that’s a fairly remarkable way to spend your time, don’t you think? Standing on top of a biplane doing a loop. And the noise is kind of appealing, too. But noise, it turns out, is at the heart of an Airshow’s ability to make me twelve again. The wingwalkers, and the historical aircraft all appeal to the heart, or the mind, and are great to see, but if you want to hit a man-boy in the gut and put a big, stupid grin on his face you let loose the dragons (volume needs to be up to 11 to hint at the gut-punching effect for this next clip):
Honestly, when that Eurofighter was doing its thing, it was just like having a dragon set loose in the sky above you. I kept thinking of Smaug. It made every other plane in the show – no matter how cool, how interesting, how beautiful – seem like a housefly, or a droning bee, by comparison.
And apart from raw power, what else makes little boys, however old, stand still and take heed? War, of course. Cultural connections to war movies, and a sound that’s instantly familiar, even though I’d never heard it before in real life: that of a Huey taking off and chuddering away over the fields. The mood music on this one’s not mine, by the way; inflicted on us by the Airshow organisers:
I was struck by how powerfully evoactive that sight, and that sound were, in ways that none of the many WWII era aircraft on show could match. It occured to me that, even though I’m British, the Huey’s intrinsically and powerfully sumbolic of its entire war in a way that not even the Spitfire is of WWII for me. The sight and sound of a Huey calls up every film or documentary I’ve ever seen about Vietnam, as immediately and simply as if a button has been pushed.