Break out the leather bomber jackets and cue up the “Top Gun” theme – its airshow time again in New Garden Township.
For the past two days, the skies above the New Garden Flying Field have been filled with buzzing engines and daring flyboys as the annual New Garden Festival of Flight air and auto show kicked off with gusto.
Attracting thousands of attendees from all walks of life and aged from toddler to World War II vet and beyond, the show has been a staple in many people’s lives for the past two decades.
“This is my 10th show,” said Carolyn Ulster of Havre De Grace, there with her husband Ted, and a few other friends from Maryland.
Strolling through the line of antique cars, which included a Desoto with all-original interior and an evil grin for a grill, Ulster said that the trip and the show have become an event all on its own for her and her friends.
“We ride our motorcycles up and make a day out of it,” she said. “I mean, these cars are incredible, they’re worth the trip alone.”
“It’s got that small-town carnival atmosphere, but it’s different because just about everybody here is into the planes, and aviation in general,” said Frances Taylor of Kennett Square. “And my kids definitely love it – what kid doesn’t want to fly a plane at some point?”
In fact, a number of people got to experience the feel of a cockpit, with on the ground tours and side trips in the sky available throughout the weekend.
And while there is plenty to look at on the ground, the real show was definitely in the skies above, with every neck craned and every eye shaded from sun to watch people do insane things.
Like, when Jim Beasley, Jr. whizzed by in his Spitfire MK. XVIII, spinning 180-degrees with gut-wrenching ease. Or when Jason Flood Pitts cut the engine on his red biplane and plummeted earthward, trailing colored smoke and twirling in flat circles, only to cut the engine back on and regain control to the audience’s howls of delight.
“There’s a real measure of danger to that kind of flying, whether people believe it or not – they’re trained pilots, but things can and do go wrong,” said Harris Thomford of Hockessin, himself a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. “That’s part of the thrill, actually.”
There was even a simulated Coast Guard rescue with the official bright orange MH-6 5 Dauphin rescue copter made famous in numerous action films, from the Atlantic City USCG base.
Even those without official pilots licenses got to show their skills, as numerous RC planes were also there to dazzle – including a scale-sized jet with an actual jet engine the size of a coffee can and 30 lbs. of thrust at its command.
“That is definitely the coolest thing I have seen all day,” one bystander said. “I need to buy one of those.”