Fat Albert wows air show crowd
“We’re going to fire up Grand Junction! Hoo-rah! Semper fi!” Capt. Brendan Burks yelled into his headset seconds before soaring 1,000 feet over the heads of the crowd gathered Saturday at Air Show Western Colorado 2008 at Grand Junction Regional Airport.
The Marine Corps pilot soon had the mammoth C-130T Hercules, better known as Fat Albert, tipped skyward at a 45-degree angle, making Mount Garfield and Grand Mesa appear sideways.
Saturday’s flight of the Lockheed-Martin Fat Albert showed off some of that American pride as the massive transport plane blasted off, thanks to the help of eight solid bottles of rocket fuel, or jet-assisted takeoff capability, known as JATO.
A ride in the plane wowed members of the media as well as enlisted Navy and Marine personnel, who are offered the privilege at air shows as a sort of reward for service.
“That was fun,” said Trenton Turza, 19, after the eight-minute roller-coaster ride that sometimes suspended him in midair.
Turza, a Marine from Rifle, just finished boot camp and was on break from his station at Camp Pendleton in California.
Before the flight, an excited Turza sent a text message to a fellow Marine in boot camp “that he should be here.”
The airport crowd looked skyward, snapped pictures and wondered aloud how pilots in fighter jets flew together so closely in formation and knew the exact moment to peel off.
A drawn out, “Up we go, a little more pull,” is how the lead pilot communicates to other pilots, said Michael Askins, Navy aviation electrician senior chief.
When pilots are ready to spin, the lead pilot says, “Ready, hit it.”
“There’s a one-second pause, and they’re flying end over end,” Askins said.
Six-year-old Steven Crick liked what he saw.
“Whoa-h, cool,” he said watching a fighter jet’s smoke trail just feet above the runway.
“I like it when they barrel roll,” he said over the plane’s deafening roar.