After going through additional screening before board the ships, I was sent to a line where tour guides from the US Navy were taking medium sized groups at a time into the ship for the guided tour. It didn’t take long for my group to be called up, and we entered the massive ship and into the lower holds. The tour itself was pretty basic as a lot of the ship was strictly off limits, which is to be expected. Besides, the general public only really needs to see the basic main parts of the ship, which included the water-line Well Deck where boats and amphibious craft can dock and launch. The next level up saw the hangar deck for the various helicopters and Harrier aircraft that are normally stationed on the ship, and finally the tour concluded with the flight deck on top along with the various Marine Helicopters that were tied down there. The helicopters were open for supervised adults and kids to climb in and look around. It was on the top deck where most of the tour groups started to dissipate, and ended with people just walking around enjoying the aircraft and views from on top of the deck. It was a very unique tour for the public, being able to visit these three ships is not something that happens too often for crowds of this size.
During the time aboard the USS Peleliu, the collective sound of sirens from boats filled the air as Naval Security speed boats came racing in clearing the San Diego harbor in prep for what was directly behind them; Navy LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) Hovercraft. One of the more impressive demos taking place before the now growing closer fly over parade, the two LCACs from Assault Craft Unit 5, based at Camp Pendleton, California, came in with loud roars and began short speed and maneuverability demos, something you wouldn’t expect from these large bulky craft. Kicking up large amounts of water and spinning in very tight circles, these troop and vehicle transporting hovercraft were quite the amazing sight to see out in the harbor, and standing on top of the USS Peleliu provided a great vantage point to watch and photograph these rarely seen craft. It wasn’t long until the demonstrations were over, and the LCACs were left in the harbor for, what we all believe, being ‘marker landmarks’ for the aircraft taking part in the massive fly-overs, which were rapidly approaching. Taking a moment to look out at the San Diego harbor, all eyes eventually met with the Coronado Bay Bridge, which was now a traffic gridlock mess of guests trying to get into the base before the fly-over, which would be an impossible task with traffic that stuck.
Leaving the Peleliu and heading back towards the actual show, it was now down to just a mere half hour before the Parade of Flight was to begin. Now became the time to find your spots to see the Parade, and the crowd lines at the show itself were already several layers deep with guests. The Media tent and space provided to us to photograph and record the show turned out to not be the best vantage point, so many media personnel began to scurry around trying to find a last minute better view for the unprecedented mass of aviation that was now forming outside of San Diego bay. After searching around a few different spots, including a Naval building rooftop where many of the media and the air traffic controllers for the incoming aircraft were set up, many of the professional photographers realized that the best vantage point wasn’t in the show nor on top of this building… but just outside of the public area on the shore next to of all things, a parking lot. I figured this out while walking back from the Peleliu, and kept that in the back of my mind as a quickly searched for where I’d be shooting the aircraft. After checking out a few different locations, I decided that the parking lot area would be the best bet. I wasn’t alone as a large bulk of media including television crews also came out and lined up along the shoreline turning a peaceful incline that turns into a very small shore and beach into a frenzy of photographers and videographers eagerly awaiting the first signs of aircraft. It was decided that this section was to be for media only, and a major thanks must be said to the Naval parking personnel that kept a close eye on all the people that were showing up and making sure that they were media only, otherwise the shore line would have been overwhelmed with people.
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