When they were planning this Friday’s centennial bash, Burbank planners said the sky’s the limit.
And even there, they’re pushing the envelope.
Sgt. Robert Quesada, the Burbank Police Department’s public information officer, remembers the comment he made in a planning session that has led to perhaps the coolest feature of this week’s “Party of the Century.”
“I was thinking an air parade,” the former Burbank police pilot recalled. “I said, ‘How about the Navy Jets?’ You fill out forms and one thing leads to another …”
And suddenly Burbank will host a parade of aerial history this Friday — from World War II bombers to a smaller version of Amelia Earhart’s plane, to today’s Burbank police helicopters.
Have you ever watched a crowd at an air show? Few things can captivate an all-ages audience like the thrilling rumble of a P-51 Mustang’s engines as it slides across a clear sky. There’s a building anticipation that grows as the tallest folks in the crowd spy their first glimpse of the great machines. The tension mounts as parents point up, helping their kids spot that grey dot that soon takes shape, then soars overhead and proclaims its dominance of the air.
My grandfather, a World War II pilot, took me to every air show he could when I was a kid in New York. I have this photo of him widely grinning in his flight suit, leaning on a twin-wing plane with his aviator goggles casually strapped on top of his head, like sunglasses casually removed for a photo at the beach.
For him, I imagine those air shows were about more than marveling at our mastery of technology. Maybe he was reliving a part of his own history; maybe he was just trying to share with us a period of his life that is better shown, not told. I like to think that seeing these military planes in action helps us honor the men like my grandfather and my father who have had to defend our country and put that vow above all other things in their lives. For that, I’m grateful.
At about 5:40 p.m. this Friday, after the initial ceremonies are done downtown, you bet my eyes will be skyward as the first planes make their way along the Verdugo hills and bank toward Olive Avenue.
Quesada said the air show honors a significant part of Burbank’s history and identity: Bob Hope Airport, and the Lockheed factory where many Burbank neighbors worked in World War II. One of their creations, the P-38 Lightning, will close out the show.
To create the air parade, the city had to work with the tower at Bob Hope Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration. That was the biggest hurdle, Quesada said, but the organizations were happy to help coordinate.
“We’re excited to see how this is going to look,” Quesada said. “It’s going to be awesome. And it’s just kicking off the night.”
Sure, I’ll attend the festivities for more than just the air show. I don’t pass up the chance at seeing an 18-foot animatronic Tyrannosaurus, or partake in a giant cupcake display, or seeing classic cars. But seriously, these planes have names like Hellcat, Bearcat and Warhawk. What’s not impressive about that?
“I’ve been here 30 years, and I really can’t say there’s been a bigger event,” Quesada said.
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant to Burbank. When he’s not looking for his plane-watchin’ binoculars, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.