Every year, from spring to autumn, hundreds of thousands of air show fans trek to small airfields and major airports to watch flying displays. If you are one of them, here are some aspects of these events that you may recognise.
You set off in good time only to be held up on the motorway, so you arrive late, join the queue for the car park, and eventually park about a mile from the main entrance. You walk across the grass, reminiscing about a misspent youth at the Glastonbury Festival, and join the queue at the entrance.
As you get close to the gate you realise you’ve left the spare batteries for your camera in the car.
Once inside you can’t decide whether to study all the static aircraft on display or head straight for the crowd line. You start walking around, past the static aircraft displays, conscientiously studying the plaques and trying to absorb the information. You do this for three aircraft before abandoning the idea and taking photos of the information plates which you swear you’ll study at home.
You never do.
You take photos – hundreds of them. You zoom in to take a close- up of the wheel struts on a warbird imagining the resulting photo is going to look arty and provoke hundreds of likes on Facebook and Instagram.
You decide the airshow program is overpriced and you don’t want to carry it around all day so you forget the air display timings. Consequently, while you’re queuing for a cup of coffee that costs as much as the program, you miss the aircraft you’ve been looking forward to for the past three months.
By noon you’re famished having set off at 6 AM so you choose the food stall with the shortest queue. Eventually it’s your turn to buy a lukewarm sausage in a dry baguette, sprinkled with half cooked chopped onions, served by a woman who coughs into her hand before picking up the baguette. You ask for a bottle of water and hand over a tenner.
As you walk away with a 25p in change you swear you’ll buy the VIP package next year.
The following year you do treat yourself to the VIP package and pay three times the price for some equally lukewarm quiche and a bit of smoked salmon.
While you sit eating it, pausing to sip some unimpressive rosé , you realise you’re missing the vibe around the beer bus and the taste of chips.
Not wanting to miss anything you enter a marquee and start browsing around the stalls. As you walk past the piles of books, the model aircraft, the pilot gear, and the bored-looking bloke on the stall selling timeshares in Florida, you hear the unmistakable sound of an F-16’s afterburner.
You resist the urge to push past the people in front of you as you head for the exit.
The air show is in June in England, so of course the skies are grey and heavy showers pass through, but you forgot to check the forecast and trusted to luck, imagining that since you’ve gone to all the expense and effort of attending, the Sky Gods would smile down upon the event.
You soon discover how inadequate your clothing is for a wet and windswept airfield in 14 degrees.
The Crowd Line
Eventually, some sun breaks through and at last you enjoy some aerial displays set against patches of blue sky. You’ve managed to maneuver into a spot with a reasonably good view.
You’ve bought new batteries for your camera and you’re merrily clicking away when the bloke in front of you stands up and puts a child on his shoulders.
Your shoulders are now stiff and your back aches, so you put your shoulders back and lean over backwards. The woman next to you looks up to see what aircraft she thinks you’re looking at.
The Red Arrows
You’re at a small show and the Red Arrows have agreed to perform a single flypast en route to another event. All day, the few aircraft managing to fly in the strong southerly winds have been arriving from the north. At the appointed time you’re ready and waiting, looking expectantly to the north for the Reds.
They fly in from the south and before you can point your camera they’re a mile and a half away.
By 4pm you’re starting to feel a little weary, having walked 5 miles criss-crossing the site, and been on your feet all day since you haven’t seen one empty chair that didn’t have someone’s leg on it, guarding it against any thought that it might be free.
There’s still more flying to come but you decide to make a break for it and beat the end of show rush.
You’ve been walking past aircraft all day, vintage and modern, commercial and military, everything from Sopwith Camels, to Spitfires, to Eurofighter Typhoons, but your curiosity is still piqued when you see an RAF roundel peeping out from under the tarpaulin on a low-loader on the motorway as you head home.
You leave when everyone else leaves and consequently you spend longer trying to get out of the car park than you did driving to the event.
There’s always next year for air show fans
That night your head hits the pillow and you fall asleep dreaming of Oshkosh. You look in the mirror the following morning and with the sunburn and the dry skin from the constant breeze you look like you’ve aged five years.
Despite it all; the prices, the queues, the weather, you know damn well that you’ll do it all over again next year.