To a young lad, can there be anything finer than an airbase open house?
Um, no, not at all.
All those planes, all those helicopters, the vast expanse of the flight line and the cavernous hangars. It was like walking into an oversized toy chest. Plus you usually got to see the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels or, if you were really lucky, the Snowbirds perform.
I can’t quite pin down the location of this shot, taken at one of many open houses I attended at U.S. Air Force bases around the country, but that’s a U.S. Army Bell OH-58 A Kiowa behind me, serial 71-20571.
I haven’t been to a base open house in decades, even though one of the largest in the United States is held nearby every year at Andrews AFB. Perhaps the Andrews’ open house is just too large, the realities of the military mission too omnipresent.
Still, there was something special about a Midwestern base open house, the somewhat sparser crowds meaning more time to linger around the aircraft displays and shorter lines for walking through a B-52 or KC-135 over and over again. (I grew up on SAC bases, thank you very much.)
Despite it being the height of the Cold War (of which my young self knew naught), there was an innocence to the open houses then: this is our job, these are our tools. And, for a young lad, they were cool tools.
And, yes, the shades and the jauntily raked hat make the shot.