May 18, 2009

Chino And The All Stars

My friend Michael, invited me and a couple others out to the "Planes Of Fame" air show, and The Horsemen, in Chino, California. Yes, Chino. The reason that name rings a bell, is either because you watched the "OC" and remembered Ryan was from there, or you did a nickel at Chino State Prison. Either way, you're tops in my book.

I've never been to an air show, ever. I always ranked them up there with bowling tournaments and NASCAR races (how many people did I just piss off?). However, you tell me there is going to be a show where WWII aircraft are flying in top performing condition and I would be able to get up close and personal, well, all preconceived notions and generalizations go right out the window.
More after the photo...

We got to Chino a little earlier than expected, and had to kill some time before we could meet Michael and get our passes, so we explored everything decent Chino had to offer. Everything decent, that we could find, consisted of a Denny's, a bike store where Chad was on the losing end of a heated negotiation for a 24" BMX, and a paintball store. It was at about the time a purchase of an M4 paintball gun was about to come to fruition that we got a call to rendezvous at the air field. A call that saved us from about $1000 in paintball gear, a wasted day in the adjacent dirt field, and the guilt of missing an air show for a few hours of not-so-cheap fun.

Although mixed feelings about the air show were being thrown around the car as we left the paintball store and turned onto the road leading to the air strip, a collective silence of boyish excitement settled in as a P-51 roared past the windshield. From then on, nothing much mattered except the smell of exhaust and the rumble felt deep in your core when a A-10 Warthog flew below 300 feet.

Other than the fact Chino felt more like hell than the Inland Empire, it was a perfect day for an air show. I guess I can't complain too much, as Michael hooked us up with VIP passes. What? You mean not everybody got to park in the shade, have a golf cart pick you up at your car and take you to a private gated off area in front of Barack Obama's old campaign bus complete with finger sandwiches, huge TVs, a bathroom and ice cold drinks? Oh, and I didn't even know there was such a thing as an outdoor air conditioner. There is... and it was in the VIP area.

The very good people at ASB know how to put an air show on, and put it on right. Every aircraft you could hope to see was up in the wild blue yonder tearing the clouds up. ASB is aiming their sites on a younger, hipper (my words not theirs) crowd to come and enjoy air shows, and the way they are able to broadcast them via Internet and new media. Seeing as how people can't seem to get enough of this 40's work-wear, military inspired lifestyle these days, ASB is nailing it, highlighting the show with their amazing collection of WWII aircraft. You can't talk to the people at ASB without getting excited. Their passion for the planes, pilots and shows is viral, leaving you a die-hard fan, no matter the level of enthusiasm you brought with you when you arrived.

The history in these planes is undeniable when you see them up close and personal. Running your hand across the riveted skin of the wings, brings to you images of war-time craftsmanship. Rosie and her gun, hard at work, doing her part and "keeping the boys flying". Knowing that these amazing planes were crafted at a time when the Country, let alone the World was in a state of such uncertainty, makes you realize how far we've all come, and the cost of getting us there. Rolling works of art, flying icons of a Nation, these birds are part of a generation defined by their actions and remembered for their unwavering allegiance. To witness, and be a part of that of that, even for an afternoon in Chino, gives me a whole new revitalized perspective on both patriotism, and the significance of idealism and optimism in the face of adversity.

Yes, a heavy day, only to be topped off with the fulfillment of every one of my boyhood fantasies. Thanks to Michael, Ali, and the people at ASB, we were able to sit in the cockpit of one of the restored planes. I would be lying if I said engine and machine gun sounds weren't pouring out of me as I grabbed the stick and tapped the gauges. No doubt the very plane I was sitting in, flew in campaigns around the world, ridding it of evil and inspiring pilots to carry forward and press on regardless. Well, that's what I assumed as I was rolling the cockpit closed anyway.

We left the airfield as the show wound down. Cruising the rows of vendors peddling wooden B-2s and reproduction flight patches, smiles, ear to ear, were plastered to our faces. A few men walked into the show and watched some planes fly, a few boys walked out silently assuring ourselves, we now knew the answer to that all too familiar question... "what are you going to be when you grow up".