As the excitement builds for this weekend's airshow, my mind goes back to an airshow from about 10-11 years ago(?)- my first Oregon Airshow after moving here. As we approached the parking area, an F-15 was turning, yanking and banking in the sky... very, very low above us. I saw the afterburner. I saw the clouds of boiling water over the wings. I saw the huge American Eagle on the tail. I was amazed- all the aviation books said the F-15 Eagle wasn't able to turn that well, that it was more of an interceptor.
Maybe some Viper fanboi wrote those reviews, but the bird I saw tearing up the sky above my head appeared more than capable of turning with anything else out there.
We parked just as it was wrapping up, and I approached a pilot in flight suit and patches. I told him how, during one turn, the Eagle went right over us, huge clouds of condensation on its wings, but it's afterburners weren't going yet there was a loud ripping/roaring sound.
He smiled and shifted on his feet like he was trying to contain himself. He said, "You bet. That's the sound of the water boiling over the wing. I heard it too, but most people mistake it for afterburners." (or words to that effect)
He went on, "Crowds usually don't get to hear it, but that guy was flying really low, so yeah, that's what it was."
Shortly after that, tragedy struck another airshow when an American aviator crashed through some trees during a performance. USAF and USN performers were only designated flights and aircraft, and few and far between. Local aircrew only flew rare, occasional fly-bys for "safety's sake."
But I will never forget the time I looked up, saw those Eagle-adorned tails, that shiny jet belly, and the roar of burning air above its wings.