Readers: If you can get organized to fly into Westover (central Massachusetts) by 8 am (airport is closed after 8) this weekend and/or get there by car no later than 8 am (traffic is insane), you’ll be able to enjoy the Great New England Airshow.
We attended the breakfast preview event this morning and got a few photos:
Colonel Scott Durham, the base commander, was fun to listen to at breakfast. A maintenance expert (the true challenge with the C-5!), he seemed like the kind of guy that anyone would be happy to work for and was a natural with impromptu jokes.
The guest speaker was Catherine Coleman, a retired astronaut who spent nearly half a year in space. She is an MIT graduate and has a PhD in polymer science. Being a nerd, I would have loved to hear her talk about (a) what she did when in space, (b) what she did in graduate school, (c) technical challenges for future space missions, etc. However, aside from the obligatory thank-yous, her talk was 100 percent devoted to the subject of diversity. She described how not all astronauts “looked like me” and that this was a challenge she overcame by being “brave and open”.
(Can NASA astronauts legitimately claim to be experts on diversity? If astronauts are all young, perfectly healthy, fit, highly intellgent, and technically educated, how is that a diverse workforce, regardless of gender ID or skin color? Colonel Coleman, Ret., seems to have spent most of her time in space on a mission that was staffed with 100 percent young white astronauts, in any case. Her previous Space Shuttle mission was also 100 percent young astronauts. Could it be about someone who identifies as a woman serving in an air force? Hanna Reitsch was a test pilot in the Luftwaffe in 1937. American women were flying high-performance combat aircraft (albeit not in combat) starting in 1943 (see the WASPs). If anything, NASA seems to be known primarily for a retrograde (so to speak) attitude toward staffing, e.g., in the book/movie Hidden Figures.)
After Colonel Coleman’s talk, a Lockheed Martin executive (she appeared to identify as “female”, but did not say that this had any relevance to her job) handed over the keys to a refurbished C-5M plane (take a C-5B and add $100+ million; the result is longer range due to more efficient engines and the ability to fly LPV approaches). The plane will be named the “Spirit of Chicopee,” after the town in which Westover resides.
Then it was time for the Golden Knights parachute team, Bill Stein in a Zivko Edge 540, a World War II heritage formation, and a couple of F-35s arriving to rattle the windows. The Thunderbirds started their practice at 2 pm.
[Logistics tip for future years: If you’re doing the Friday breakfast option as a family, I recommend skipping the “breakfast” part of the breakfast and arriving at the gate at 8:59 am (supposedly guests must arrive by 9). McDonald’s will sell you fresher eggs and the kids will need only about one hour of patience before the action starts. Go off base for lunch at Chick fil-A and then park near the FBO to watch the Thunderbirds practice from outside the fence. Stay with the Thunderbirds team at the Hampton Inn Chicopee.
If you don’t want to bake, consider the Rhode Island Air Show in 2019. Right next to the ocean is a lot cooler than Westover’s inland location. Also, the Rhode Island folks leave the airport open until at least 10:00 am for a show that starts at 10:25 so it is a much less grueling experience. Despite the stellar line-up, the Rhode Island show attracts a smaller crowd and therefore, if you can’t fly in, you aren’t likely to get stuck for five hours on the Mass Pike as we learned happened to one breakfast attendee in a previous year (he had three kids in the back of the car!).]