Well, I am certainly hopeless with a camera, and it was the first airshow I was able to attend in a long time. So I would ask the photography pros and airshow veterans on the forum to bear with me. But perhaps my modest attempt can convey some enthusiasm to those considering attending an airshow, and encourage them to take the plunge.
The Rhein-Main-Classics Airshow took place last weekend at Oppenheim airfield, a small and somewhat bumpy grass landing strip near the river Rhine, a few miles south of Mainz, fairly in the middle of the Rhine-Main-area. Clearly, this was a very small airshow by the standards of what most forum members have experienced, with about 40 planes on static and flying display. Nose wheels were a rare sight, as most of the planes predated their common usage. Being there a few hours prior to the start of the show itself afforded us the opportunity to watch a number of training flights in addition to the airshow.
I was accompanied by our eldest son; in fact we were reconnoitering whether we could take the entire family the following day, but a 15-minute drive (one-way) along backroads that appeared to have last seen motorized traffic when Patton pushed towards the Rhine in 1945, plus a near two-mile hike along beaten tracks, as well as a general lack of shade, would have proved a challenge for the little one in the stroller.
Another objective of attending the airshow was to give our eldest son his first ride in an aircraft. While my wife and the two girls had done their first flight in an Antonov An-2 in Poland two years ago, Roman then had sprained an ankle and could not come along. So he got booked on an An-2 at the airshow to uphold the family tradition of making the first flight in a single-engine biplane of that type. He did, but did not enjoy it as much as we had hoped, or expected. Perhaps because the distinctive smell of gasoline in the cabin, which the other family members were able to experience on the Polish plane, was absent …
While our son was airborne, and I was walking back along the flightline, away from seeing him off onto the Antonov, an accident happened on the runway: a small, modernish single-engine GA aircraft was taking off, when it rolled and the port wingtip touched the ground. The plane lost speed and careened to the left, and eventually got back on the ground, continuing at a slight angle to the left of the runway until the nose wheel collapsed and the plane came to a stop with its tail in the air.
Not sure whether it was the fact that it was the the port wing that had touched the ground, or it was the pilot's doing, but left was the way to go as the same trajectory to the right of the runway would have taken the plane at least very close to the edge of the spectators' area, to the helipads with fueled-up helicopters, and the makeshift fire station manned by the local volunteer fire service (proudly renamed "Oppenheim Airport Fire & Rescue" for the occasion). The firemen got to the accident site first, and no paramedics were called in.
Later on the damaged plane was towed to the airfield perimeter:
Apparently no one was hurt in the incident, and everyone appeared to take it quite in stride (the airshow commentator did not comment on it at all), but my knees felt a bit wobbly, knowing what would have lain in the trajectory of the damaged plane had it swerved to the right instead of to the left, and also being concerned that the airfield might be closed following the accident, forcing the Antonov with our son on board to divert to another airfield, and me on a wild-goose chase in order to collect him. (As it turned out, flight operations on the airfield were only suspended for a few minutes.)
So finally, here are a few impressions:
One of my favorites, the Messerschmitt Bf 108 "Taifun" (Typhoon), an advanced 1930s design of an all-metal 4-seater sports plane with slats and flaps. Even today it can easily hold its own in terms of performance (speed, range, payload) against comparable GA planes. The fact that a plane designed barely three decades after the beginning of motorized flight is still state-of the-art in its class more than seventy years on impresses me to no end.
A Junkers Ju 52/3m from Ju-Air in Switzerland was present and could also be booked for flights:
A Boeing Stearman:
Two Focke-Wulf FW44 Stiglitz:
One of the Harvard T-6 trainers which performed impressive air acrobatics:
A Soviet fighter, I forget which make and model :oops::
A number of oldtimer automobiles were present in a separate static display, but this vintage "wing-doored" Mercedes was cheekily lined up among the planes :
So what was the most impressive thing about the airshow? I should say first that I am a big-plane guy: huge transport planes fascinate me, while I am not one to moon about the speed of fighter planes. I remember huge C-5s (and later the much more modern C-17s) out of Rhine-Main Airbase lugging more than a hundred metric tons of freight through the air, over the rooftops of our small village, and the fascination with the big ones has never waned.
But seeing, and even more importantly, hearing this plane may have changed that: The sound of a 1600-horsepower P-51 Mustang engine on full throttle is something that defies being described in words, just as the speed and lightness of moving through the air of this fighter cannot be captured in pictures (it was clearly too swift for my meager photography skills). I am sure that a Spitfire, or Bf 109 or FW 190 – all of them the epitome of the piston-powered fighter plane just prior to the advent of the jet fighter – will have the same effect. Apparently many people were excited about the distinctive sound of the Ju 52's three BMW-engines, and the 1000-horsepower radial engine of the Antonov is something special as well, but the throaty power, aggressiveness, menace of the sound of a P-51 can only be likened to a lion's roar that lets a whole jungle fall silent.
One aspect of the airshow that I had not been aware of was the number of dealers in devotional items: posters, second-hand books, key-ring tags, model airplanes, and clothing galore, most importantly caps (for airshow amateurs) and hats (for the pros, as a hat also protects the sides and the back of the neck). For the executive who has everything, there were even desks made from the structural elements of military planes, or ejection seats that can be rebuilt as office swivel chairs:
While the multi-thousand-Euro price tag of the desks was easy to resist, I did pick up the smallest size flightsuit for our 13-month old son Robcik who appears to enjoy the first steps into the world of aviation immensely:
So many planes – but what about watches? Naturally, one cannot attend a congregation of many hundred persons without watch spotting. I could recognize bulky Casios, one Chronoswiss pilot's watch, a Sinn U1 (distinctive enough to recognize, and to read the time, from 20 feet away). I was wearing my Mark MCXLVIII, which is a nice enough office watch, but hardly suitable for an airshow, and indeed I did feel a bit "underdressed":
I wished I would have brought the Traser/H3 P6500 or the Hamilton GG-W-113, or the Sinn 656 all of which have a lot more pilot's watch DNA and/or specs., and would have fit in much better than my office watch.
But what watch would I have wished to wear? Perhaps a bulky Sinn 757 UTC with the new countdown bezel would have fit in nicely, with a robust mechanical movement, and all the advanced technology that can be built into a watch today (dry capsule, extended temperature range, antimagnetic protection, crystal secured against the loss of outside pressure etc.):