Monday, August 13, 2007

Catchings Up II

Aside from hauling my things across the country on my way to L.A. for a BU internship program, I had the opportunity to promote at EAA's AirVenture expo in Oshkosh, WI. I spent the vast majority of my time working, but in between I ate some decent food (Li Yang's had surprisingly good Chinese food [to my palate], Fratello's had some good microbrews [the blueberry went quite well with salad, and their porter and stout were very tasty] and the crab cakes were good, and the beef carpaccio salad at the Water City Grill was lovely) and saw a few things worth mentioning.

When I wasn't working or engaged in admiring the food I was eating or, in a manner I'm certain is nowhere near as subtle as I'd like, the physical attributes of those serving it, I caught a little bit of the airshows at AirVenture. F-15s opened the expo, flying about at 0900, waking those camping who had not yet risen. There were many bi-planes at the ends of the days. They were fun to watch for a short time, but the repetitive movements of their routines precluded long term viewing.

In the last few days of the show, different planes made appearances. There were F-86s, amongst others, flying around performing simulated bombing runs complete with imitation bomb hits. The F-117A is surprisingly quiet even at very low altitude and makes quite the intimidating profile in the air. The F-22 was rather impressive to my novice eye. It would fly about rather quickly with afterburners going, then slow down appreciably, maneuver the nose up ninety degrees, engage the afterburner, and climb quite far. The pilot also nestled the F-22 in behind the wing of a P-52 for a pass.

On a completely side note, because it just happened to occur right here, I thought I'd mention that I had the opportunity to play with an iPhone while demonstrating enflight. The iPhone is a rather slick little device. The ease with which screen magnification is achieved or the transition from full to wide screen was entertaining.

They screened a number of aviation related films at AirVenture on a very large, inflatable, outdoor screen. The night I attended, they were showing Apollo 13. I've seen the movie before and felt it to be well done for what it was, but not enough to drag me out into a summer night in Wisconsin (often quite humid and not too pleasant from what I recall). This screening, however, was to be introduced by Jim Lovell himself. Why wouldn't I go to that?

When I say introduced I mean someone asked him relatively inane questions to which Lovell gave answers. He said a lot of things, but I only really recall a few. He stated that he, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert didn't put all of the best stuff over the radio recordings because they thought it would make a good movie some day if they survived.

There was the tiresome "How do you use the bathroom in space?" question. The reply was more entertaining than expected. Lovell had been around for the testing of the initial prototypes and told us that the first one had basically been a can with a hose on one end that used air pressure to pull the contents of the can out the other side. Before anything gets used in space, it first has to be tested by test engineers in the Vomit Comet. The word from the test engineers on the first prototypes was negative. NASA eventually found one it liked, and Lovell and Frank Borman (if I'm recalling which mission it was) had the honor of field testing it. According to Lovell, the conversation went something like: "I think it's that time Jim." "Can't you wait another nine days?"

He talked of meeting with Ron Howard and Tom Hanks to discuss making a film of the book he and Jeffrey Kluger wrote. As he was leaving the meeting, Hanks caught up to him and asked when he could study Lovell so he could more accurately portray him on film. A date was set for Hanks to fly to an airport near Lovell's home in Texas. Lovell met Hanks there and flew them back to his house. He made sure the typically 30 minute trip took one and one half hours while he hearkened back to his test pilot days to perform some aerobatics, figuring if Hanks was going to play him on screen, he should at least have a little idea of what the test piloting experience is like. That and it was just fun to spring that sort of thing on an unsuspecting actor.

While in Oshkosh, I missed the opportunity to see a show in Madison with my friends Laura and Brian because I did not have access to my own rental car. That is more unfortunate than it might sound as I have no idea when I might make it near enough Indiana to say hello. I took some decent photos of cloud formations on my flight back, though.

That about catches everything up. I think. Maybe. I can't remember really, so this will do. Colorado is as it was, for the most part. I just have to remember to get out and enjoy some of it while I'm trying to accomplish home-based things.