|By Leo Cachat|
I arrived at 10 a.m. Thursday morning and met with John Sumner, who was in charge of airshow operations. John filled me in on all the happenings and drove me around the grounds in a golf cart to give me a feel for where everything was. We watched the TN ANG C-17 as it made its arrival as a static display for the show. After this, I went back to my vehicle to get my gear and start shooting the few planes that were there. After shooting the C-17, I made my way to the hangar where John Klatt and crew were busy getting their aircraft in airshow shape. As I was there, Thunderbird No. 8 advance pilot Major Scott Petz asked if John Klatt would take him for a ride, and John happily obliged. I watched as they quickly suited up and headed out and made their return about 30 minutes later. The Major enjoyed his flight and talked with John awhile about his MXZ before heading back in to wait for the rest of the Thunderbirds to arrive.
There were very few planes in the hangar at this point, but that would change in about six hours. Wayne Roberts arrived in his beautiful orange and white Extra 300Z. He came over to introduce himself and took the time to pose with his airplane. He is truly a great ambassador for aviation and a great pilot as I would see on Friday. I spent the next couple of hours photographing the lone Thunderbird on the ramp and the rest of the planes in the hangar, including Gene Soucy's Showcat, Kent Pietsch's Kaydet and Manfred Radius' sailplane. Two of Team Aerodynamix RV's were also on the ramp.
At about noon the Thunderbirds support aircraft, a C-17 from Travis AFB, arrived with the support personnel for their team. After all the crews and their gear were unloaded, the C-17 fueled up and departed the airport in dramatic fashion - throwing dust and grass into the air upon takeoff. We were told the Thunderbirds would arrive around 1 p.m., but due to a mid air refueling problem they wouldn't arrive until around 4:30 p.m. There were a few Stearman that arrived, and as the afternoon went on Skip Stewart taxied in from his hangar around the corner. Andy Anderson, Jerry Conley, the rest of Team Aerodynamix and Matt Younkin all arrived just prior to the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds arrived and did their preshow checks of the area before flying some of their show maneuvers. They were nice enough to buzz us on the ramp several times before landing. The Navy's F/A-18F West Coast Demo Team jet arrived right after the Thunderbirds.
I was allowed access to get some terrific photo opportunities. I finally decided I should go check in to my hotel, as it was now 6:30 p.m. and I wanted to arrive early the next morning to catch all the action on show day. Thursday was a great day, and I looked forward to returning Friday.