Monday, June 9, 2014

A Flight to the Latrobe Airshow

I didn't even get offered a seat-but Turbo did!
The Westmoreland County Airport (KLBE) in Latrobe, PA drew in a huge crowd for their 2014 airshow this Saturday. Part of that crowd included Bob, Turbo the Flying Dog and myself. The show would conclude with a demonstration by the Navy's Blue Angels. This would be the only time they would be in the area this year, and it felt like all of Pennsylvania turned out for it! Also performing were the GEICO Skytypers, the Golden Knights, the Raiders Demo Team, Matt Chapman, Andrew McKenna and (my favorite) Jacquie B Airshows.

The airport had a TFR starting at 11:30am which we double checked that morning. In addition, the airport was not NOTAM'd closed and flight service said that it was up to ATC whether they allowed pilots to arrive and depart during the TFR. We decided to arrive by 10:30 to give us enough time for the show. In the back of our heads, however, we were wondering why the TFR began at 11:30am when the airshow website stated it began at 11. But, those worries were shrugged off as we confirmed the time online, with a call to flight service and a call to the airport.

Jacquie B in her Extra
It was a beautiful clear and sunny day. We started the morning with a pancake breakfast on our deck with a friend then headed for the airport. The flight was smooth and easy. 17 miles out, Bob called Latrobe tower to give them a heads up and to confirm the TFR wasn't until 11:30am. We were still too far away, but we heard through the static "...airport closed...". We both looked at each other and then continued flying a bit closer to talk to the controllers once the frequency became more clear.

15 miles out. The airport was closed. Apparently, they changed the time on the TFR just 15 minutes prior-while we were on our way to Latrobe! Bob patiently argued that we had confirmed the TFR on multiple occasions and were flying in specifically for the airshow. The controllers asked us how far we came. When we told them Frederick, they directed us to enter a downwind, that we were the last to access the airport and to "land at your own risk".

Turbo reunited with Jacquie
We landed (at our own risk) breathing a sigh of relief. Looking to our right, crowds ran the entire length of the airport, watching us taxiing by. Turbo stuck his head out of my open window to get some fresh air and many in the crowd took photos, pointed, laughed or waved. We were a hit! 

Once stopped, we hopped out and were greeted by one of the airport volunteers. He apologized, but they had closed the airport due to an overwhelming number of pilot transients they did not have room for. We were flabbergasted that they would change a TFR so close to the time, but our anger towards the situation dissolved as we looked around at the planes in excitement and our favorite airshow performer and friend, Jacquie Warda came up to greet us and her favorite pup, Turbo.

We walked around fighting crowds for awhile (and people ooo'ing and ahh'ing at Turbo) until we found a great spot near centerline, under the wing of a C-123 Air Force cargo plane with a nice view of the
Bob calls this the Double Hornet
performers and Blue Angel's parking spots. A friendly photographer near where we stood fell in love with Turbo and allowed him to get out of the heat and enjoy a spot on his folding chair with a built in umbrella. I tell you, this dog has the life!

It was so great to finally see Jacquie perform and to spend some time catching up with her afterwords. Besides her and the Blue Angels, the performance I appreciated the most was that of Raider's Demo Team. I have not seen their airshow work before and was very impressed by their daring performance in Yak aircraft.

Getting ready to leave-and drawing lots of attention!
It was a long hot day at the airshow and we were looking forward to the flight home when the show ended and the TFR was soon to be lifted. Unfortunately, their were no prepared instructions for transient pilots and it was a bit disorganized on the way out. We were lucky to be the last in and therefore the first out. Everyone had to manually pull their aircraft into a line and we had about a 15 minute wait while the crowds cleared and the ground volunteers allowed us to start up and taxi. It was a slightly bumpier ride as we said goodbye to Latrobe, with a parade of other aircraft behind us.

2 comments:

  1. Hmm, that sounds a tad complicated and frustrating. Of course, jet noise generally cures all ills and it appears it did so for you guys!

    I wonder if I should start a "Fabio the Flying Furball" blog and see what kind of access I gain... ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just a minor inconvenience. We lived...barely ;) And I would SO follow the Fabio the Flying Furball blog!

    ReplyDelete

What are you pondering?