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This is a collection of my blog entries and experiences with flying, and learning to fly. Something I had been wanting to do for quite a while.
You can find all the pictures I've taken here, and read below for my experience.
Specifically, I have a page for my Trips to Oshkosh, the mecca for pilots

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2004/05/31 Moffett Air Show and rant
π 2004-05-31 13:49 by Merlin in Flying, Nflying, Public

So, this time, the yearly air show at Moffett AMES happened on memorial day, and I read it was due to the fact that the availability of the thunderbirds demonstration was what set the date.
Since I like fighter jets and that Moffett is like a 10mn drive from home anyway, I've been going every year they've had the show since 1999 (besides, this year I had premium seating at work on friday where I could see them practise through my office windows (not counting the one that buzzed our building ;)
Of course, since I was also French-sitting (hosting two school mates visiting me for the weekend), it was a good event I could bring my two guests to. Besides I knew that they were going to buzz my house and sunnyvale/mountain view anyway, so I might as well go see them. So there! ;)

In a nutshell the entire venue was a little bit disappointing, like two years ago. Unless they hid them very well, there were no real static displays, and one could not enter the impressive blimp hangar.
The air show itself was reasonably good, although we didn't get to see as many planes as previous years like an F117 or funny things like a jet powered car versus a plane, or a combat rescue demonstration with an apache helicopter, troopers, and by pyro explosions , but eh, it was Memorial day weekend; maybe they weren't able to get everyone they wanted.
Oh well, no matter, the F15 demonstration was actually quite enjoyable, and the thunderbird demonstration started quite nicely too (everyone tells me that the blue angels are better though). So, the funny (or not so funny) part was after getting more than another earful about the superiority of American air force (which I don't dispute, mind you: French planes, which probably come second, are actually quite good too, but I'm not too sure they entirely compare anymore, and besides, there's a lot less of them anyway ;) ), the thunderbirds demonstration had to be stopped in the middle due to trouble with one of the F16c they use.
I have no idea how serious it was, all I can tell is that one of the other planes escorted plane #6 to the runway, and it took him a while to get there. No one got hurt, and the pilot landed safely which is the important part, but I couldn't help but wonder what went wrong. The F16s were known for being the first fly by wire US jet figthers, and the trailing 'c' does mean it's the 3rd or 4th revision of that plane, which wouldn't be all that unusual, planes get updated all the time, but the F16 was known for having many inexplicable computer failures, which caused many crashes and pilot deaths. I've also always questioned the wisdom of using a single engine in a jet fighter (F14s, 15s, and most later planes that I know all have 2 engines in case one fails and/or gets shot at)

Anyway, just like some get goose bumps from the sound of a V8 (eh, don't take me wrong, I very well understand :) ), having an F15, 16, or some other kind of jet do a high speed low pass (aka buz) is just something I find really cool. It gives you a glimpse of the awesome power those jets can harness (one jet has more power than the entire indy 500 lineup just to give a point of reference). Let's just say that it's an experience you can see, hear, and feel :)

Here are pictures of the F15

and the single engine F16c from the firebird formation

Before I go on, you can find all the pictures here , and the previous years there

This brings us to the subject of hearing protection. The funny thing is that I wasn't really concerned about that for the couple of loud passes a few of the jets made, but more as a wish to cancel out the brainwashing propaganda that was served to us during the entire show.
Ok, it was memorial day weekend, I fully understand that they played the national anthem, although the two french guys I brought were in awe in front of the instant reaction from everyone (hats down, on your heart, and standing tall and proud or something): it's just not something I've ever seen in any other country, and I'm not very fond of the peer pressure that people exercise on others to follow suit (sorry, it's neither my country nor my anthem, I'd be pretending if I followed along, and pretending is not something I casually do. Of course I try to be respectful when other people listen to their authem, that's normal).
Anyway, that was no big deal: it's part of the culture and I'm used to it. However it got worse throughout the day, from all the songs they played (I wish I had taken notes)
  • I am a real american "fight for your rights" (my cinical side would of course say 'you mean your "right" to attack other countries to get their oil instead of using your own for now')
  • America the beautiful
  • Proud to be an American
  • God bless america
  • and probably another 4 or 5, I kind of tried to block them out after a while
    (I'm fairly certain France or Holland, just to list those two, do not even have any such songs, and you can keep your cheese eating surrender monkey jokes to yourselves, thank you :)
On top of that, the announcer was just delivering heavy layer after layer of "you should be proud", "they defend our country" (which they do, but there's a "funny" story about that, see below), and more pro war, and "everything is ok and we are right" propaganda.
I have more problems with the politics though, as I do have much respect for pilots, or everyone else working in the airforce, navy or army. They do what they're told in often harsh conditions and they're not responsible for whether what's they're doing is right or not.
Don't take me wrong, I am really not a militant, or any kind of political activist. For that matter, I wouldn't be able to vote here anyway since I am more right wing, but liberal so I'd be screwed with either party. The funny thing is that I'm slowly realizing that right wing here is actually very different from right wing in France. I'm starting to wonder if right wing in France is not actually closer to left wing here, and right wing here dangerously close to ultra right wing in France (aka the facists and Jean Marie le Pen, who for the first time got to the second round of presidential elections in France, along with the "regular" right wing candidate, for an evil twist of second turn without any left wing)

Anyway, as I was saying, my friends were appalled by the brainwashing, and I now remember that when I went two years ago with some Americans, the same thing happened, and my American friends also said that it was bullshit, although it's hard to boo in that case :(

I really have nothing against patriotism, but I'm very worried about the blind patriotism and blind pride in this country considering the fucked up things that are being done and that most people (or at least a majority of voters) don't seem to really be aware about (or that they try to ignore otherwise, like those who hope that gay people will go away if you just pray enough at night and pretend they're not there...)
But it's true that having lived in a few countries, I wouldn't say that people here should be more proud of being Americans than people in France should be proud of being French, or Dutch people are proud of being Dutch. The only difference is that Americans are really really proud of who they are (even the ones who had nothing to do with it, just eat burgers and watch TV), and most other people not only do question whether it's deserved, but also find that arrogant (how's that for a twist, it's not the French who were arrogant afterall ;-) ). I guess in my book, Americans should be thankful instead of being proud, unless they were actually involved in making this country what it is (I'm refering to the good sides of course), I'm just not quite sure how you can really be proud to be born somewhere, it's not an accomplishment, it's just luck.

Man, this was supposed to be about an air show. See what happens when you try to feed propaganda to me? ;-)

Oh yeah, I promised a tidbit about how fighter planes actually did not defend America the one time they could have. The following abstract is from this page . I should say right now that I do not agree with the conclusion from this writer, but some of the points he raises (and some having been undisputed so far as far as I can tell) are quite interesting...
The 4 hijacked planes were all being tracked on Federal Aviation Authority radar, and air traffic controllers across the country were in communication with each other. Since no junoir officer would have the authority to override the interception routines. the failure to activate them, can only have come from orders to that effect, from the very highest levels. In the case of the plane which struck the pentagon, United Airlines flight 77, It should have been intercepted, as it approached Washington, by fighters from Andrews airbase, a mere 10 miles from the pentagon (see AG 631). In fact in should have been intercepted a lot earlier than that. By 9.05 at the very latest, the Pentagon knew that two hijacked planes, had struck the world trade centre, and that at least one more hijacked plane was at large. It may not have been clear by this time, that flight 77 was headed to Washington, but it was clear that a terrorist attack of massive proportions was taking place, and that at least one more plane probably had intentions to strike somewhere. The fighters at Andrews airbase stayed on the ground. By 9.25 at the very latest, it was clear that this plane was headed to Washington. The Andrews airbase fighters stayed on the ground, and whichever squadron was responsible for covering the area where the plane was originally hijacked, had also failed to activate. At 9.41, just 2 minutes before the plane struck the pentagon, two F16 fighters from Langley airbase, were dispatched to intercept it. Langley airbase is 130 miles away! They had no hope whatsoever of intercepting it. Meanwhile the fighters at Andrews airbase stayed on the ground!The official story is that no fighters were available at Andrews that day
Don't take me wrong, mistakes happen, and this is a shitty mistake at best, but I can't help but cringe when I hear about how we should be proud of the jet fighters that are defending the country when the one time they could definitely have helped, they failed to do so (I'm pretty sure however that this was linked to political problems, budget cutbacks or whatever other reason that is not related to the great work that people in the air force or army do considering the situations they're put in and what they're given, like known understaffing in Irak, causing more needless deaths, and other very questionable orders. Actually, in last week's 60 minutes, general Zinni , chief of central command, explained how the army was getting screwed by the government, and how heads should fall, but haven't yet)

I will however add again as a disclaimer that I'm not anti-American (or I'd be very stupid to live here), I'm just able to see the conditioning that happens starting early on in schools (wrt to blind pride, and a freeze reaction or goose bumps from the national anthem), and it scares me somewhat when I see that and then how some people are dying to vote for Bush again (if I were republican, I'd abstain or something). I understand that if you're republican, you kind of had to vote for Bush in 2000, and I also realize that many do regret having done so now (thank you). On top of that, I am aware of the fact that more than half the voting population didn't vote for him in the first place, but the remaining people do scare me (and no, that still doesn't make me a democrat, but I would vote for the lesser evil).
I've been lied to in France too, but it just feels a lot worse here, and about things that are much more important than what happened some evening the president and a few interns (which I honestly couldn't care less about). Also, it seemed that people in France were more aware of the fact that they were being lied at than here (but I may be wrong on this)
Either way, if you've never seen it, do go rent and watch wag the dog , it illustrates my point fairly well.

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