Michael Nadaud has aspirations to become a pilot.
The 30-year-old computer programmer got a little inspiration Saturday from the Blue Angels.
“They’re awesome,” said Nadaud, wearing a NASA t-shirt as the six F/A-18 jets thundered over the Vectren Dayton Air Show.
Nadaud and his wife, Julie, were part of a crowd of thousands who spilled through the gates of the air show at Dayton International Airport to watch the Navy’s jet team and acrobatic performers like Sean D. Tucker and Patty Wagstaff. The air show takes to the skies again today.
The couple drove from their Cincinnati home to last year’s show, but never saw any performances because they arrived just after a biplane crash June 22, 2013 killed a wing walker and pilot and canceled remaining performances that day, Michael Nadaud said.
Saturday’s show went smoothly, fending off occasional rain drops and a gray overcast before making way for the sun just in time for the Blue Angels take-off.
Air show officials will not release attendance numbers until Monday, but they were pleased with the first day’s turnout which may easily exceed the 23,000 who attended over two days last year. “This tells me that Daytonians want their air show and they want their jet team,” said Dayton Air Show spokesman Timothy Gaffney.
Tyler Mitchell, 47, of Vandalia, brought his 7-year-old son, Jayden, already a young veteran of three air shows.
“He loves planes,” his father said. “Everything about them.”
Not surprisingly, Jayden picked the fast and loud acrobatic jets of the Blue Angels as his favorite performers.
“Because they do some awesome stuff,” Jayden said.
Air show attendees roamed dozens of vintage aircraft on the ground, too.
Tony DeSantis, a retired airline pilot, answered questions about the historic American Airlines DC-3 “Flagship Detroit” while Judy, his wife, sang tunes from the Big Band era to those waiting in line to tour the passenger cabin.
“I didn’t want to be left home and I am a professional singer,” she said.
Tony Desantis, 66, flew the stick and rudder plane to Dayton.
“It’s like you’re sitting in a piece of history and actually getting to fly it,” said DeSantis, of Palm City, Fla.
Normally accustomed to flying large, state-of-the-art airliners like the Boeing 767, DeSantis literally had his hands full manually controlling the world’s oldest flying DC-3 without the aid of modern fly-by-wire computers. The plane first flown in 1937 was restored after it was found as a crop duster in a field in Virginia about a decade ago.
“For me having 15,000 hours of flying time, when I started flying this thing, it was challenging,” said DeSantis, a former Air Force pilot who described flying the DC-3 as “seat of the pants.”
“I love it,” he said. “It’s more fun flying this thing than anything else I’d say.”
History also found a spot under a Tuskegee Airmen tent, where Army Air Corps veteran Harold J. Wesley, 90, of Springfield, remembered the fighter plane protection the pioneering black airmen gave his B-24 Liberator crew over Europe.
“When you see a German airplane coming at you, you need all the help you can get,” he said.
Donald E. Elder, 85, of Columbus, trained with the Tuskegee Airmen, but never deployed overseas.
“It’s impressive,” he said, “to come back and see the people recognize history.”