This last Sunday afternoon, I walked into the living room as my Dad had turned on the Red Bull Air Races. For those not familiar with the sport, it’s a relatively new competition created in 2003 that involves single-prop airplanes attempting to navigate a course with gates and obstacles in the fastest amount of time possible. As I watched the pilots defy gravity with their stunts over Cannes, France I was reminded about some of my earlier experiences with planes, especially air shows.
When I was younger, I went through a lot of interests – trains, cars, Legos – but one that has especially stuck with me is a love of planes and anything aviation. There’s just something about flying that has always captivated the human imagination, and coupled with the increasingly innovative designs of planes, the subject really had me hooked.
So when there was a chance to go to an air show in Fargo, North Dakota, several years ago, my family took a trip to see it. I remember vividly walking through all the static displays full of helicopters, jet planes, cargo planes and every sort of flying object imaginable. There were stunts performed by planes flying overhead, engines screeching. But the attraction that really put the icing on the cake for me was the Blue Angels.
The Blue Angels are the U.S. Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron. I remember the rush that ran through me on seeing their blue and yellow jets for the first time in the sky above me. I had seen them in pictures and videos before, but it nowhere near captures the amazement you feel in real life when watching their shows. I watched breathlessly as their planes zigzagged high above, and felt the sound barrier break in their wake. They then finished off with their signature diamond formation, with four planes flying only inches apart.
Afterward, I was quite impressed, and looked for all sorts of media about them. Many an elementary and middle school book checkout from the library was for a book about planes or the Blue Angels specifically. I also kept an eye out for further air shows, and was excited to see the Blue Angels were actually coming to St. Cloud that next summer. I marked the date, and waited in anticipation.
The day came, and once again I was caught up in the fervor of planes and the Blue Angels. There were plenty of new things to see as well, including a F-22 Raptor stealth fighter that performed tricks with its advanced maneuvering capabilities. All in all, it was another great day, and I got a baseball hat, though a little small for me now, that I wore everywhere emblazoned with the Blue Angels’ logo.
Following that burst of activity, I have yet to see another air show again. There was supposed to be one in St. Cloud in 2013 which was cancelled, and others throughout the state I haven’t been able to attend, though I’ve always kept my interest and hope that an opportunity will come up again.
In the end though, I think my air show experiences really served to cement two main ideas in my head, that of an admiration for our nation’s service members and the amazing technology that are planes and all things aviation. We are truly lucky to live in a time with so many incredible pilots and innovations all around us.
Connor Kockler is a Sauk Rapids-Rice High School student. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.