Monday, August 3, 2015

Flying High at Air Show

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst opened its gates to the public this weekend for its first air show since 2008. More than 300,000 people were expected to watch the Air Force Thunderbirds and see more than 80 aircraft on display.

Flying High at Air Show


Just when I thought last week it couldn't get any better photo-wise - a Star Trek convention - I ended up covering Supersonic Jets and more than 80 "Static" aircraft on the flight line at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The base opened its gates to the public over the weekend for its first air show since 2008.

I'd been told more than 300,000 people were expected, and cars would start to line up at 8 a.m. for the 11 a.m. opening.

But it wasn't that bad as I arrived on the road leading up to the main gate. Even without time to look around in stop-and-go traffic, I noticed families sitting in their cars and mini-vans in a parking lot along Main Street, so without hesitation, I pulled right over.

The show would go on until 4 p.m. so I figured I could miss the opening drop of the U.S. Army Golden Knight precision parachute team.

I drove up first to the Davis family (above), missionaries who run the drop-in Armed Forces Baptist Mission Christian Service Center in a storefront in the little strip mall next to Thunderbird Lanes (I wondered which name came first, the bowling alley or the USAF Thunderbirds, headliner stars of the air show). They had watched the air show practice runs on Friday and decided the parking lot would be a great place to see all the show. "They flew right over us," Ellen said. She, her husband Arlan and son Nicholas pointed out the control tower, visible through the fence, and all the visitors walking across a huge field, giving me a good sense of how the parking and logistics would work once I got on the base.

But I wasn't in any hurry. I was into the scene in the parking lot.

Also avoiding the lines, crowds and long walk from parking lots were retired commercial pilot and former US Army helicopter pilot (Vietnam, 1967-70) Terry McInery and his grandson. He said he'd been attentend these shows for forty years and also knew all the tricks. "We can see just fine from here, and I can get food, drinks, or change diapers... there is no way I'm carrying him, and then standing in lines like Disneyworld." But then he told me he planned on returning by himself on Sunday.

 I did eventually make my way ONTO the base... here, or on one of the photos, to see more.

Inquirer Staff Photographer
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About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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