Air show delights crowd
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2010
4/25/10 at 9:05 AM
You didn't have to be Buzz Aldrin to enjoy Saturday's QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.
However, Aldrin did enjoy being
"I'm happy as I can be to be here," the famous former astronaut said.
Aldrin described the event as a "unique blending" of the stages of flight, spanning from propellers through jets to rockets.
While Aldrin spoke of those three generations of aviation, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., was part of a three-generation fly-in of his own.
Inhofe, a pilot with almost 11,000 flight hours, flew into the event in a Cessna 340, while his 48-year-old son piloted an RV-8 with one of the senator's grandchildren aboard.
All three share the moniker "James Mountain Inhofe," and all share a passion for flying.
Judging by the popularity of Saturday's show, they are not alone.
Organizers estimated attendance at more than 40,000, a turnout that led to a huge and lengthy traffic jam leading into the museum near Mohawk Park.
Jim Bridenstine, executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, said Saturday evening that "the response was overwhelming."
He said he heard about people who were stuck in traffic for long periods of time or parked far away and walked to the show.
Bridenstine said that organizers anticipated a big crowd, but that the 40,000-plus was probably on the high end of what they expected.
He said despite glitches related to the large turnout, the vast majority of the feedback he received from patrons was positive.
During the morning, Inhofe got a bird's-eye view of the traffic slowly heading toward the air museum.
While the tie-up undoubtedly caused a few headaches on the ground, Inhofe said the strong attendance was just the latest example of the huge interest the community has in aviation.
Bridenstine emphasized that enthusiasm — and the history behind it — when he pushed for the city to host an event that would feature the Rocket Racing League.
The Rocket Racing League is NASCAR-style racing with manned rocket planes battling each other in the sky. Pilots follow a track that's projected onto a helmet display.
Bridenstine said he went to Orlando and stressed to organizers "what we've done, who we are and what we want to be in the future."
One of those aspirations involves being the future home of a space shuttle.
John Herrington, who attended Saturday's show, flew aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor during his career as an astronaut. The native Oklahoman, who now lives in Idaho, is spearheading that campaign to land a shuttle.
He said Tulsa has the resources, infrastructure and background to prevail in a competition that involves about 21 cities.
After Space Shuttle Discovery returned safely to Earth last week, launch manager Mike Moses was quoted as saying that NASA almost certainly will need to keep the vehicles flying beyond the advertised September retirement date. However, he stressed the intention still is to wrap up the program by the end of the year.
Herrington said Saturday that getting a shuttle in Tulsa would be an "incredible inspiration" that would serve as an educational asset in addition to making the city a tourist destination.
The 51-year-old Herrington said that when he was a youngster, the real-life exploits of Aldrin and his contemporaries were the stuff of prime-time television.
Herrington said the students he speaks to these days grow up fantasizing about the space they see in movies and on video games.
The common denominator, he said, is that science and math are still the keys to careers in aviation.
Those careers also can lead to professional accomplishments that cause unending fame.
It's been more than 40 years since Aldrin walked on the moon, but Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett noticed on Saturday how the crowds "gravitated" to Aldrin.
You didn't have to be a prominent politician or a famous astronaut, though, to enjoy Saturday's show, which was cut short by half an hour because of crosswinds related to a brief storm.
Alan Johnson, 52, of Sapulpa was meeting his 26-year-old son for the event. Johnson said he's had a lifelong interest in aviation and was looking forward to seeing the various types of military aircraft.
Darrell Osten, a 63-year-old Air Force veteran, was anticipating the rockets.
Also on display were everything from gliders to wing walkers.
Basically, everything you could hope to see connected to aviation was in Tulsa on Saturday.
Well, except for a space shuttle.
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Kyle Franklin flies his Waco Mystery Ship biplane during the QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium on Saturday. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World
A Cessna 402b Rocket Racing League aircraft performs during the QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show in Tulsa on Saturday. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World
Greg Collins of Catoosa and his 4-year-old son, Zachary, take a closer look at a World War II-era North American P-51D-20 fighter during the QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium on Saturday. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World
Kyle Franklin flies his Waco Mystery Ship biplane during Saturday's air show in Tulsa. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World
With pilot Greg Shelton at the controls of his Stearman biplane, wing walker Ashley Battles hangs upside down as the two perform during the QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium on Saturday. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World
People watch the skies during Saturday's QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show near Tulsa International Airport. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World