Pilots, not athletes

Today—our second-to-last in England before returning home—the wife, the tots and I attended Dunsfold Wings & Wheels, a airplane (and racing car) show located in a field about nine miles from Guildford.

In a word: spectacular.

I’d never been to an air show. Neither had the wife. I now understand what Nascar fans talk about when they refer to the rush of watching cars zoom by from the infield. The intensity of flight; the airplanes turning into marionettes; the roar of a military jet, just a few hundred feet away, hovering in the sky. I was talking to The Wife about this—here in England they worship folks like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, just as in the States we idolize Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning. Yet pro athletes have nothing—absolutely, positively nothing—on pilots. Most of these people were military enlistees who do the shows to promote Britain’s armed services. They live for speed and adrenaline, and—oh, by the way—protect their country, too. Quite frankly, watching the show made me jealous. I write about sports. Whoop dee doo. Many highs, some lows. But these people—their lives are rushes. Every. Single. Time. They. Board. An. Airplane. The hands tingle. The heart pumps. You’re going faster and faster, straight up into the sky. Then you temporarily shut off your engine, suspended 10,000 feet above the ground. Suddenly—Zooooooooooooooom! You’re off.

Again, spectacular.

The coolest part probably came when the Red Arrows, the Royal Airforce’s aerobatic team, dashed down the runway and off into the sky. Ten planes, all red, all flying at insane speeds, bobbing and weaving and curling. Colorful smoke oozing in their wake.

I can’t say this was the absolute best day of our month-long journey. But it was pretty damn amazing.

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