I had the opportunity to witness a USAF air show at Offutt Field in Omaha, Nebraska this weekend. It was an incredible experience for many reasons. Air Shows are first and foremost an exposition of what our tax dollars have purchased and why. The fact that it is also very entertaining is just a pleasant side effect.

The show is a two part program; the dynamic show of a limited number of aircraft in flight demonstrations and the static show of a much larger selection of aircraft on the tarmac for close up viewing. Mixed in with the military aircraft are some private shows that are fun for the kids and filler between the military activities. There was a nice little write-up in the Omaha World Herald.

I will admit that I have a fascination with aircraft, military or civilian, so this may read like a sales pitch. On the civilian side, there was the Geico speed aerial show, the wing walker on a biplane, and the Embry Riddle stunt plane along with a small helicopter that was flying when I entered the field. The military flights included the Nave F-18J super hornet demonstrator, Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstrator, the Air Force Thunderbirds (6 F-16 eagles) and a flight over by an Air Force B-2 Spirit Bomber.

I was impressed by the capabilities of the 20 year old aircraft (F-16 and F-18), but the F-22 just blew my socks off. It is so small, fast and nimble. I wanted to have a chance to talk with the pilots but that was restricted to the VIPs, and although I have a high opinion of myself, the Air Force and the Military Police at Offutt do not share that opinion. I had to watch from behind the barriers like all of the other common people.

The static display was much more hands on. There was a B-52 Stratofortress bomber with the bomb doors open so that you could look up inside. There was a C-17 Globemaster transport that you could climb around in (it can hold a couple of school busses. The other modern vehicles included a KC-10 tanker, C-130 transport, E-3 electronics surveillance, AH-64 Apache Attach Helicopter, H-1 Medical Helicopter, and A-10 Thunderbolt Attach Aircraft.

The historic aircraft had flown in the morning and were set up for static display by the time I got there. There were P-51 mustang fighters, a Japanese Zero, P-38 Lightnings, B-24 Hudson and B-25 Liberator Bombers, and several Navy aircraft I did not get to.

All in all, it was a good show. If you really had to have your car there, parking was provided, but there were busses every 15 minutes to several parking lots. There were several watering stations and the food and beverages were reasonably priced (about half what you would pay at a ball game). The organizers (I assume it was the USAF) were also efficient in their security. There were military police from every branch along with the local police. They only searched about every 5th car and they had enough metal detectors so that the entrance lines never slowed down.

What made this air show especially nice is that my teenage son accompanied me. Just the two of us, make spur of the moment decisions as to where to go and what to look at. In addition to the fine company and the excellent entertainment, it was also my birthday. I can write this up as a good day. If you ever have the chance to go to one of these shows, I would definitely recommend it. Even if you do not especially like air planes, you should take a chance to see where a large amount of tax dollars are being spent.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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