Great New England Air Show this weekend at Westover

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!).]

7 Comments

  1. Ken Hagler

    July 13, 2018 @ 11:34 pm

    1

    I don’t really believe that she really ever considered other astronauts not looking like her to be a challenge to be overcome, because if she did she never would have passed the psych evaluation to become an astronaut.

  2. anon

    July 14, 2018 @ 1:30 am

    2

    Speaking of astronauts, what is their job exactly? To do experiments that show humans atrophy in zero g? To cut off NASA’s live feed video whenever a UFO passes by? As far as I can tell the only cool thing the ISS has produced (for $150B!) was Chris Hadfield’s rendition of Bowie’s Space Oddity done in space:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo

  3. George A.

    July 14, 2018 @ 8:12 am

    3

    @anon

    There was nothing “cool” about building a dugout canoe [1] to cross from one island to another, until when that canoe became a steamship [2] and let you cross across an ocean.

    BTW, IMHO, Hadfield’s Space Oddity be it in space or not, sounds far better than Bowie’s.

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dugout_canoe
    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steamship

  4. anonymale

    July 14, 2018 @ 10:10 am

    4

    That’s some mighty good cargo cult thinking there, George.

    Yes, the dugout canoe preceeded the steam turbine chronologically.

    Hardly seems like a necessary technical development or prerequisite.

    Boiler or the locomotive seems like the more relevant preceding technology to the steam turbine for motive power.

    But if you think James Watt spent a lot of time in dugout canoes before coming up with the steam turbine, then more power to you! Personally, don’t see the connection you’re forcing, but, if “it floats must be a duck” (or a witch) has a lot of historical support among certain crowds. Best.

  5. Jack

    July 14, 2018 @ 10:42 am

    5

    I guess the point as to Coleman is that a degree from MIT in polymer science does not make you insightful, thoughtful or an independent thinker.

  6. philg

    July 14, 2018 @ 11:43 am

    6

    Jack: Her undergrad degree is from MIT (Chemistry 1983, according to Wikipedia). Her Ph.D. is from University of Massachusetts, which has a specialty in polymers.

  7. Mike

    July 17, 2018 @ 2:19 pm

    7

    Big Disappointment. No tactical fighters demos at all. 3 16’s, 2 15’s, 2 18’s 2 35’s and no flyers!!! Watching a C-5 and KC-135 fly by is like watching paint dry. 8 bucks for a sleezeburger,

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