Friday, June 17th, 2005
11:13 pm - Air Show Geekery  
It turned out to be a lovely day once the sun came out late in the morning. It was mid-seventies with puffy white clouds setting off the blue sky. I took a well earned break this afternoon from my current project from hell to stand out behind the building for about half an hour, and letting the sunshine wash over me while I watched the Blue Angels practice their routine overhead.

You can't see everything, especially because of the monstrous warehouse across the street. There's an even bigger warehouse behind us, but it's quite a bit further away, so, apart from a few trailers that our warehousing neighbor has backed up right next to our property line, that view is fairly unobstructed. Of course, the really good stuff happens over the airfield, which is about a mile away, but we're close enough to get some really good views as the jets scorch by just a couple hundred feet off the ground. Close enough to read the number on the tail, and the "U.S. Navy" on the underside of the wings.

The trick is spotting them when they're still a little ways away so you know what direction they're coming from. The warehouses don't just block the view. They also reflect the sound of the jets, so you're never be quite sure if the roar coming from the direction of one of the warehouses is from a plane or from an echo until you see the plane. Then there's the Doppler effect. If the plane is coming towards you, the sound is different from the usual jet roar. It's softer and higher pitched, a quiet whistle, and the effect becomes more pronounced the faster the plane is moving, as the frequency of the sound gets pushed up into the dog whistle region. Sometimes you can barely hear it at all until it's right on top of you. Once it's past, you get the loud, deep rumble, as though someone just cranked up the sub-woofer.

I've always liked the Blue Angels a bit more than the Air Force's Thunderbirds. I think they put on a slightly better show, and their FA-18's are sleek and beautiful to look at compared to ugly, mouth-breathing F-16's the Thunderbirds fly. Also, I think the Navy's paint job looks better.

The Canadian Forces' aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, is also in town, and they were in the air a little while after the Blue Angels finished. They fly smaller and slower Candair CT-114 jet trainers, but they bring nine of them, so they can do some formations that the U.S. teams can't. I've seen them before, and they put on a pretty good show.

I really ought to go in to do some more work tomorrow on the PFH. Throw one of the bikes in the back of the truck, and I won't even have to worry about parking at the field.
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