Vol. 2, Issue 13, March 30, 2004
Stealth Aircraft Show Disappoints Crowd
The annual MacDill Air Force Base open house and air show, which attracted hundreds of thousands of people each year before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has returned. But things weren't quite the same this year.
AirFest, which had been an annual event for 14 years before the 2001 attacks, resumed as the base's opportunity to feature its military hardware. However, the new hardware, while more advanced, was a bit less dramatic.
"Due to world events, the Air Force has done a lot of upgrading," said First Lt. Kathy Rosser, a MacDill spokeswoman. "Most of our planes are stealth planes; they just weren't designed with Blue Angels air shows in mind, you know."
MacDill now boasts squadrons comprised of the F117A Nighthawk stealth fighter and its successor, the F119 Eagle Owl.
"Eagle Owls are the most effective stealth fighters ever designed," said Rosser enthusiastically. "They are virtually invisible to enemy radar. They can operate with impunity in nearly any environment - no one sees them coming."
Including, apparently, the crowds at MacDill, who stared squinting at an apparently empty blue sky in vain for hours as the planes ostensibly performed their maneuvers.
"I hear something," said Dave Crandall, who attended the air show with his family. "I mean, I hear jet noises. Is that one of the planes? What was that noise? What the heck is going on?"
AirFest organizers expressed regret that the show was somewhat disappointing, but seemed smug about the success of the plane.
"Well, this just goes to show how effective the technology is," said an unapologetic Rosser. "The Eagle Owl uses the latest in nanotechnological refractive materials to blend in with its background. It's nearly invisible across the spectrum, in fact."
Some expressed suspicions about the motives behind AirFest.
"I would like to point out that no one has ever actually seen an F119," said Joslyn Carbonetti of the RAND corporation. "I would not put it past the Air Force to get thousands of people to stare at an empty sky while they piped in sound effects and pretended to be flying invisible planes overhead. It would be a tremendous bit of propaganda not only for the American taxpayers, but also for foreign military analysts."
Indeed, China criticized the $52 billion F119 program and stated in official state newspapers that its own air force was producing planes that are "50% more invisible" than the Eagle Owl.
"Oooh, I'm shakin' in my boots," quipped President Bush. "Listen: no one can make $52 billion vanish into thin air better than we can. Trust me on this one."