There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who look up, reflexively, whenever they hear an aircraft engine, and those who don't. My seven-year-old daughter Addie appears to be in the latter category. As a member of the former, I have been hoping that as she grows up, she'll share my interest in airplanes.
I thought a total immersion might help, so I took her to her first airshow, the 2007 Kansas City Aviation Expo. Extra added bonus: I knew a B-2 flyby was scheduled. I had once seen one on static display, but never a flyby.
As we made our way through the main gate, an F-15 was making low passes, afterburners on full. "Dad, Dad, there it is!" she shouted as it flashed behind hangars. As soon as we were in, she saw a FedEx freighter with its cargo door open. "Dad! Let's go in there!" Addie mostly wanted to play on the rollers embedded in the cargo area floor, as if she were skating. Okay, this was fun, but I wanted her to see actual flying airplanes. But after 15 minutes: "Dad, can we go home now? I'm hot." I checked my watch: another hour until the B-2 flyby.
We killed some time wandering around the static displays, and I pointed out something interesting or appealing about each one. A smoke-generating aerobatic lightplane briefly caught her attention, as did a thundering 300-mph jet truck. By now, the B-2 was just minutes away.
Addie spotted a C-130 with its cargo ramp down. I tried to convince her to look at a V-22 Osprey parked nearby, which I had never seen up close, but Addie insisted on the Herc. A line snaked out the back, so I figured we'd still be outside when the B-2 appeared.
Let me explain my relationship with the C-130. A fine airplane it is, but between the many airshows I've attended and visits to my father's base on his Air National Guard weekends, I had been in and out of a Hercules about 12,000 times. I most assuredly did not want to miss the B-2 for another walk through the spartan interior of a C-130.
Of course the line moved fast, and we were soon just inside. The crowd outside began to stir, arms pointing up, and the jet roar began to build. I grabbed Addie like a sack of grain and ran outside in time to see the B-2 make a level pass. It then looped across the far end of the field, returned for a banked pass, rolled out the opposite way—and disappeared. Was that it? No one seemed to know, and Addie was getting antsy. So before the line had completely re-formed, we went back in the C-130. This time Addie made friends with another child.
Suddenly the roar echoed overhead. "Addie, the Stealth is back—come on!" I pleaded.
"But Dad, I really want to see this!"
"This" being the cargo netting on the wall. ROAR. Another pass. Now it was the jump seats lining the wall. ROAR. The controls that operate the cargo door. ROAR. The flip-down toilet on the bulkhead behind the cockpit. ROAR.
By the time we made it into the cockpit, I looked through the windscreen and could just make out the B-2, leaving for sure this time. Oh well. But Addie was having the time of her life, pulling on the yoke, flipping switches (under the watchful eye of a crew member), and pretending to fly.
That's my girl.