We all gathered outside the Air and Space Museum to get on the buses for the second part of the trip. A few people got on the opposite bus to the one that they had come on. This apparently was a problem from a security perspective since our next stop was to be the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar. It would transpire that some would be glad they got back on their original bus before too long.
Miramar is a short drive north of San Diego. Now it a Marine Corps base, Miramar has operated under the control of a number of services through its life. It is probably most famous and the center of US Navy fighter operations in the 1980s when Top Gun was filmed there. Fightertown USA now is home to some marine F/A-18 Hornets as well as a lot of V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft. These have now almost completely replaced the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter with the marines at Miramar.
We were to be hosted by one of thes tilt rotor squadrons. However, first we had to get there! As we headed up the freeway, the bus suddenly went rather quiet. We coasted to a halt, our driver/comic hopped out, disappeared around the back and before too long we were on our way again. This was not to last though. Very soon we repeated the process and this time we were sitting on the shoulder of the freeway.
One errant bolt apparently was killing the cooling fan and the engine, in full self preservation mode, was shutting down before any damage could be done. To add insult to injury, we were actually in sight of the base. While a rescue plan consisting of a mechanic to fix the bus and the other bus making a return trip to pick us up was put into effect, we got to stand on the side of the freeway and watch the Hornets bashing the pattern.
Eventually we were on our way and got to join the rest of the party in the Officers’ Club at Miramar. There was food left for us and fortunately nobody decided to try and do any Top Gun song routines in the club. With a little compression of the time at lunch, we were able to get back on schedule. Off we went to the squadron.
We were given access to the squadron hangar (at least most of us were until the security gate got over its concern about how many people were coming in and locked a bunch outside for a while). There were a couple of aircraft in the hangar we had access to shoot and the doors were open to the ramp although we couldn’t venture outside. Plenty of Ospreys were out on the ramp and there was some flying activity. A Super Stallion also came in and some Hornets and and Orion were also flying in the distance.
The sun was out and the vast expanse of concrete was throwing up a lot of heat haze. This frustrated any attempts to shot anything too far away but there was still plenty to look at. Unfortunately, as our time was running out, we gathered together for the group shot. Just at this point a bunch of aircraft returned. The security minders were most insistent that we stop shooting and head to the group photo which was a bit of a shame but never mind.
After the group shots it was back to the buses for the final part of the day’s fun. Another installment will be forthcoming soon…