In anyone’s lifetime, there are just a few events that can be characterized as ‘once in a lifetime’. This weekend, both my wife and I experienced such a thrill. The weekend featured the Boston Portsmouth Air Show, with the main headliner being the famous U.S. Navy Blue Angels. But that was not the only awesome highlight of this show.
I was fortunate to receive a very gracious invitation from Oracle, that was featuring noted stunt pilot, Sean Tucker, as part of the Team Oracle presence and billing at the show. When my wife and I checked in at the Oracle chalet, we were asked if we wanted to volunteer to be part of a designated team of ‘pole holders’. Naturally we sought clarification of what that meant. Among his numerous talents as an experienced pilot, Sean Tucker performs a maneuver during his exhibition where he flies about 15-25 feet above the main runway, between three sets of Oracle bannered poles tethered together by a colorful ribbon. ‘Pole holders’ hold these poles as Sean flies past at a few hundred miles-per-hour.
After this explanation, I looked at my wife who to my surprise, immediately stated, “Absolutely, sign us up.” I replied “Don’t we want to talk about this?”, but she was hearing none of that.
After a rigorous safety briefing, Sean’s able team explained to the team of designated pole holders that we were to walk about a half-mile out to the main operating runway with our poles. They then explained that the next queue would be to raise our poles and extend the ribbon from pole-to-pole. As a final stunt, Sean would fly his plane (noted in the attached picture) under each of the extended poles. He would then loop around the field and make a second pass, this time, cutting all three ribbons with his wing tips. “With his wing tips.. O…K…?”
As all our team members walked out to the runway, all I could think of was all those numerous warnings that I heard on airliners when taxing to and from boarding gates. “Please keep your seat belts fastened because we are on an active runway.” We only had our two feet on this runway!
After taking a deep breadth, we watched Sean perform a magnificent demonstration of stunt flying and then the command came, “Raise your poles.” As Sean’s bi-plane approached, my first thought was that I hope that he was having a good day. The plane dipped, and under the banner he flew in a flawness manner. The noise was daunting, but the ‘rush’ was incredible. Next came the turn for the second pass and my wife and I held that pole in a white knuckled grip. We braced ourselves as the red blur approached, and to our astonishment, we hardly felt any pull as the ribbon was severed at 25 feet off the ground. Incredible and a thrill of a lifetime! Unfortunately, I was not able to bring my Flip videocam to capture the moment,
As we were walking back the crowd gave us very gracious applause. My wife turned to me and exclaimed, “Aren’t you glad we volunteered”. “You bet!!! Yahoo!!!”
Our thanks go out to Team Oracle for this fabulous experience and to the organizers of the Boston Portsmouth Air Show for organizing a truly awesome event.