Travis’s Air Expo 2011 spanned two days and included air demonstrations by the world-famous USAF Thunderbirds (F-16 Fighting Falcons – see pic below), amazing aerobatic performances by a variety of pilots, ground attractions – and more airplane displays than we could count!
This was our first Air Show at an air base (we’ve watched the Blue Angels perform during Fleet Week in San Francisco over the last 20+ years) and it did not disappoint. We arrived early on the first day of the show (Saturday @ 9am) primarily to beat the traffic, crowds… and the heat. Thousands of people flock to this free air show every year and the temperature was expected to be in the high 90s my mid-afternoon. As it turned out, the unexpected gale-force winds kept us cool, but that didn’t stop the pilots from taking to the skies and performing their magic.
If you’re planning on going to the Air Expo next year, you may want to get an early start to avoid sitting in traffic for hours. Even at 8:30am, when we exited the freeway to Travis, it took a good 10-15 minutes to drive to the base. From the main gates it was another 15 minutes driving in single file out to the air field to park our car. Security waved us on to our parking space (the huge parking lot was already filling up fast). After parking, allow plenty of time to get through security into the airfield. Everything was so organized and precise – it is a military base after all!
What a rush watching Patty Wagstaff as she performed her spectacular gravity and death-defying aerobatics routine in the skies over Travis Air Force Base. Patty is one of the most famous female aviators in all of aviation history. In 2003, she was named as one of the 100 most important people in aviation’s 100 years. We’re betting not too many people can fly like this!
We decided not to bring our chairs along because we wanted to board some of the planes and it would have weighed us down. Of course, if you’re planning on spending the whole day at the Air Show, it’s not a bad idea to have a chair to sit on. Note that there is no shade, so be prepared to sit or stand in the sun. And wear comfortable shoes – we did a LOT of walking – everything is spread out over a vast area.
The air field was filled with a variety of planes (and helicopters) of all shapes and sizes, including the U-2 T-38 Talon, B-52, E-2 Hawkeye, and B-1B Lancer (pictured above) – it carries the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. The C-5B Galaxy (pictured below) is one of the largest aircraft in the world.
After waiting in a long line, we boarded the E-3 Sentry (AWACS) – easy to spot because of its huge circular rotating radar dome atop the plane’s fuselage (pictured below). The E-3 Sentry is an airborne warning and control system with surveillance, target detection, and tracking platform. Once inside, we chatted with the pilots in the cockpit and then walked the length of the plane before de-boarding – fascinating!
Vendor booths for shopping (mainly Thunderbird memorabilia) were scattered throughout the area. Fast-food and beer booths were also plentiful. I was getting queasy just watching the stunt flying manoeuvres overhead, but then again, it was probably the hamburger and chips I ate for breakfast!
It felt like deja vu coming back to Travis Air Force Base – my dad was stationed there before we moved across the pond to London. Barry managed to track where my old house “used to be” via GPS on his iPhone – it’s now a small park area, but Center School is still there!
As we were leaving the base, we couldn’t believe the traffic coming in – it stretched for miles… all the way back to Hwy 80!
The Travis Air Show makes a FUN day out with family and friends. And ladies… you just can’t beat a man in uniform 🙂
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