Saturday, November 5

MacDill Air Fest

On Thursday, November 3rd, the Flagship departed 9A1, Covington, Georgia for MacDill AFB, Tampa, FL. Crew: PIC Gene Christian, FO Tony DeSantis and Dan Gabel. Passengers: Sheryl Christian. It was a severe clear day, lovely for flying.
In what seemed like no time at all, we were on the ground in Tampa, a lovely balmy evening. And being greeted by an enthusiastic ground crew of young Air Force men and women. Two young officers, Lt. James Diroff and Capt. T. Ryan Moore, were assigned to us and had vans parked there at our disposal. Right behind them were Jake and Peggy in her car. She had driven up from her home in Jupiter and picked him up at Tampa International.
James and Ryan guided us to Base Operations for orientation and the receipt of a packet of needed documents, then on to the MacDill Inn where we were staying and then departed, saying they would be checking in with us through out the weekend.
Our "motel" turned out to be a former BOQ ( Bachelor Officer's Quarters) now tricked out like a motel. It consists of what used to be two "dorm" rooms connected by a bath, only now one of them is a sitting area. So a little strange in that one passed through the bath when going from sitting to bedroom, but very nicely appointed.
After some stirring around, we managed to get off base on and on a main road where we hoped to happen upon an eating establishment. This was accomplished due to Jake's sharp eye and soon we were ensconced in Grillsmith, which boasted having the "Best Damn Martguerita Period." No way could we pass up that challenge since we have been rating them from coast to coast at every stop. I would have to say that it was certainly a very nice one, but do not know if I am ready to crown them the winner or not. Further research is in order.
Back in our rooms just before ten, in time to hear Taps wafting across the base on the breeze. As an old army brat this was really a nostalgic moment for me. In fact, my father was stationed at MacDill about 1964 and my parents lived in Tampa for almost 40 years.
On Friday the men went early to breakfast and then on to a briefing, a refueling of the plane, then a practice flight and repositioning on the flight line for the show, and finally a second briefing. I am told this was all conducted in a very professional manner, but ended up taking the whole day.
The women took a long walk along the bay, enjoying the scenery and watching the pelicans dive for fish. Then we found the mess hall, where we had a full lunch meal for just over $5. We rounded out the day with a shopping expedition to St. Pete.
We have now been joined by two more members of the group, Zane Lemon flew in this afternoon and was picked up at the airport by Jim Skelly, a new member who lives in St. Pete. Jim was career military and retired from MacDill before having an airline career. There are now 8 of us.
Tonight we are guests of the Base Commander at a beach club on base named Sea Scapes. They had appetizers and inexpensive drinks. There was a large patio overlooking the bay where a band was playing. Some planes put on a mini air show and after dark there was a little fireworks display put on by a helicopter and an airplane. Never seen anything like that. The plane had streamers of sparks coming out of each wing. They served a buffet of heavy hors D' oeuvres.
The young men and women of the Thunderbirds were there in their sharp looking flight suits. We enjoyed talking with them. They only fly for two years, but put on about 70 shows a year.
Because everyone at the party had to be out at the show early in the morning, this party broke up early.

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