Waiting it out at Whiteman

“When the hound dog barkin’ in the black of the night
Stick my hand in my pocket, everything’s all right.”

ZZ Top

“Just Got Paid”

The sun beat down as a lone F-16 raced through the clouds.

Lt. Col. Christopher Hammond was on a solo mission in jet No. 1 to check the height of the clouds before the other five launched. The show was on. It was just a matter of what show we were going to see: high, middle or flat.

Hammond, the commander and leader of the Thunderbirds, radioed back that the clouds were low enough for the flat show. The stunts would take place at no higher than 2,000 feet.

The thunderous F-16s launched one at a time, streaking away and doing something different as they left the ground. Capt. Nicholas Eberling took No. 6 straight up like a rocket.

The high humidity thickened the air streams coming off his jet as the afternoon rain soaked into our butts. The rain had chased away a good chunk of the crowd Saturday during the Wings Over Whiteman air show. We took advantage of the wet, open bleacher seats to watch the Thunderbirds blast through the dirty cotton ball skies.

It was worth the wait. But we had to put in some work. We waited in car lines for three hours, The Best of ZZ Top drowning out the cicadas as A-10s, a B-2 and other aircraft went through their routines around us. We made it on base just in time for the rain to start.

We splashed through the water running across the tarmac and took shelter under enormous wings, engines and fuselages. Everywhere you looked, people lined up to take shelter under the wings of massive aircraft, from the C-5 Super Galaxy to a B-1 bomber and a series of enormous open hangars. After waiting more than an hour, we gave up and were wandering around the static displays on our way out when a piece of blue sky poked through the clouds.

The announcer, in a cheery voice, gave us the good news.

The show was back on and we got paid.

Wings Over Whiteman visitors take shelter Saturday under the fuselage of a B-1 bomber.

Wings Over Whiteman visitors take shelter from the rain Saturday under the fuselage of a B-1 bomber.

The Thunderbirds pilots and flight crew go through an elaborate exercise prior to boarding. Every pilot and crew member is perfectly synchronized in this choreographed display. Capt. Nicholas Eberling, left, flies the No. 6 jet.

The Thunderbirds pilots and flight crew go through an elaborate exercise prior to boarding. Every pilot and crew member is perfectly synchronized in this choreographed display. Capt. Nicholas Eberling, left, flies the No. 6 jet.

Capt. Eberling prepares to board after putting on his flight suit.

Capt. Eberling prepares to board after putting on his flight suit.

The pre-flight preparations are almost complete.

The pre-flight preparations are almost complete.

Capt. Eberling has his helmet on and is ready to launch.

Capt. Eberling has his helmet on and is ready to launch.

The entire flight crew team lines up as the jets taxi to the runway, shouting and gesturing.

The entire flight crew team lines up as the jets taxi to the runway, shouting and gesturing.

The flight crew team walks across the wet tarmac.

The flight crew team walks across the wet tarmac.

Four of the six jets roar over the crowd as the show begins.

Four of the six jets roar over the crowd as the show begins.

The F-16s bank to show off the emblem on their underbellies.

The F-16s bank to show off the emblem on their underbellies.

The one formation I did not capture was the delta formation with all six.

The one formation I did not capture was the delta formation with all six.

This was as close as I came to the classic mirror shot.

This was as close as I came to the classic mirror shot.

Coming in stacked.

Coming in stacked.

Capt. Eberling performed the stunt where the jet is tilted up and crawls slowly through the air.

Capt. Eberling tilts his nose up and slowly crawls through the air.

The high humidity helped thicken the air streams the jets created as they sped through hard turns at high speeds.

The high humidity helps thicken the vapor trails the jets create as they speed through hard turns at high speeds.

The sky started to darken as another round of rain approached. My exposure was terrible but the airstreams coming off the jet on top are cool.

The sky darkens as another round of rain approaches. The exposure on this shot is terrible but the vapor trails coming off the jet on top are cool as it peels off from the pack during the finale. All three jets are releasing smoke that marks their path through the sky.

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  1. #1 by gleasonmediaproductions on June 15, 2015 - 10:02 pm

    These are great shots of the planes in action! Well written and great photos to compliment the story!

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