Jessica has wanted me to do a post for quite some time now, and I thought this would be the perfect topic… Shiny Blue Planes in Lynchburg!
I first heard about the airshow back in February with a rumor that the Blue Angels were going to be performing. Immediately I began to freak out, whipped out the debit card and began begging Jessica to let me spend $150 for two VIP tickets. “We” decided to settle for the preferred tickets at $15 a piece instead. However, there may or may not be a savings account set up for the 2013 show.
You see, I grew up going to watch the Blue Angels in Jacksonville, Fl almost annually with my family. I even managed to drag Jessica along to a few shows once we started dating and she even joined in with my excitement. We are all airplane fanatics and didn’t mind sitting in the 100+ degree heat for hours on end at the Navy base tarmac with thousands upon thousands of our closest friends. And it’s true, there is something about these shows that brings people together in a strange but friendly way. You meet random people and start talking about the last time you were at a show, hoping that you know just a little more than they do, giving you the opportunity to impress them with your knowledge of aeronautical acrobatics and airshow logistics (Ok, you could probably replace “you” with “me” in that sentence).
After months of waiting, the week of the LYH Airshow finally arrived. This was where things were different than my childhood experience. This time, we actually lived in the city where the show was being held. This means we get to watch them fly in a few days early and watch them practice All. Week. Long. I don’t think Jessica was prepared for the nerdiness that she was about to witness. I drove up to the mountain everyday at lunch and dragged her out there every day after work to see what was going on. I was in heaven and so was my brother, Todd, who decided to stick around a week after graduating college just to see the show. The entire city was enamored with what was going on at this point. Twitter and Facebook were flooded with pictures of jets flying low overhead and statuses about vehicles almost crashing into buildings due to the roaring fighter planes sneaking up from behind. The evening before the show felt like Christmas Eve. I could barely sleep and spent a good portion of the night planning out the next day.
The morning of the show, Jessica awoke to me staring at her with a huge grin on my face yelling “Happy Airshow Day!”. She was not as enthusiastic as I, but was still excited nonetheless. The camera battery was charged, the tickets were printed and the bags were packed. I felt like a twelve year old. The three of us jumped in the car and headed to the offsite parking area at Liberty University. It was like the Red Sea had parted for us. There was no traffic and we took the back entrance to campus, where we found a spot directly behind the buses that would sweep us away to my personal Nirvana. We boarded our yellow, thirty plus passenger chariot with only ten others. Even though there were hundreds walking towards us looking for a ride, our driver decided to take off. This guy must have somehow understood my excitement and didn’t want to keep us waiting any longer (Sorry if you were one of the hundreds).
We arrive at the show minutes later and walked right in. Lynchburg has to be one of the best cities in the country for an airshow. Mountains surround the airport, and you are able to sit on a hill overlooking the runway with a perfect, unobstructed view of the death defying maneuvers only dozens of yards away. It was definitely one of the hottest days of the year so far, but we didn’t care. We drank plenty of water, but unfortunately didn’t use quite enough sunscreen. We are currently still peeling off layers of our red tinted epidermis. Incredibly worth it. I won’t go into much detail of the show itself, but the performers were all absolutely incredible. There was a wide range of planes, from the slow, but graceful, WW2 bi-planes to the six modern, thunderous FA-18 Blue Angels flying at 600mph only 18 inches apart. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking about the indescribable, high-flying acts. You have to see them for yourself to understand how incredibly awesome the show actually is. And no, watching them from your front porch is not the same. You need to smell the jet fuel, hear the pilots from the cockpit and watch them fly straight at each other only to miss an almost certain, fiery death by only a few feet.
At the end of the show, the goose bumps wore off, and we made our way to the rear exit. Lynchburg wasn’t quite ready for this many people leaving at once. I won’t go into details here either, but I’m sure there are a few people that waited in line for three hours that would love to give you an ear full. Patience is definitely needed at large events like this, and we didn’t mind at all. Thankfully, we were rescued by some Liberty University Alums and had a private bus take us back to our car. I’m sure they will have the bugs worked out for the next one.
Even though we had seen the show up close the day before, I just couldn’t stand the thought of not seeing the Blue Angels fly every possible chance that weekend. On Sunday afternoon, I grabbed the camera and drove down the street to get one more glance at my childhood heroes. Watching them at eye level screaming through the city was a completely different kind of amazing. I learned afterwards though that the commander (Jet #1) was having a little too much fun flying fast and low and broke some of the barriers. They stopped the show short that day and he stepped down as the leader of the Blue Angels shortly after. Sad, but honorable. Safety first as they say.
As you can probably tell by now, this was one of the best weeks ever during our time in Lynchburg, Virginia. Jessica, Todd and I had a great time acting like kids again and enjoyed an event that hasn’t been in Lynchburg for over twenty years. If there is a similar show coming to a city near you this summer, we highly recommend lathering up the sunscreen and making a day out of it. It’s an experience like none other and a great way to expand your living room. Fly Navy!