Robert Ellingwood stood near the runway Saturday at Nellis Air Force Base -- where his daughter Nicole would later perform harrowing maneuvers with the rest of the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration squadron -- and talked about how difficult it is to have a loved one in harm's way.
Twice, as aerobat Sean Tucker flew his biplane upside down and rolled it in the sky above Ellingwood during the Aviation Nation air show, Ellingwood closed his eyes as he talked about years of worry.
"For 17 years my wife, Cathy, drove every day from Summerlin to the Excalibur on the freeways," he said. "She would tell me virtually weekly of cars rolling over, getting T-boned, catching on fire after they got hit. It really worried me. I'm so glad she retired."
Worry isn't on his radar when he thinks about his daughter, a Western High School graduate and the first female to join the elite Thunderbirds, who loop, roll, and dive in jets capable of 1,500 mph, with wingtips 3 feet apart.
"She's well trained and the maintenance on the planes couldn't be better," he said of his married daughter, Maj. Nicole Malachowski.
If you expect the unexpected at the Air Force's 60th Anniversary Air Show, which salutes the past, present and future of American air power and concludes today, you won't think you've sniffed too much jet fuel.
Consider this from 7-year-old Dallas Halvorson: "Daddy, I want one of those."
Was he was speaking of getting a model of the MiG-17 flying overhead in the Vietnam re-enactment?
Oh no. He was asking his daddy, 43-year-old Las Vegan Larry Halvorson, for a remote control car. Hundreds, if not thousands of people, watched repeated demonstrations of remote control cars as they ran through an obstacle course.
"This is great," the elder Halvorson said.
It certainly was well-grounded, not at all flighty.
And then there was the food line that never ended. Were people waiting to get some of the scrumptious Italian fare or other ethnic cuisine on hand?
Oh no. They were waiting to get Spam, which some non-Spam lovers have said stands for "Something Posing as Meat." An estimated 10,000 people, according to Brian "Spamoni" Callerame, field marketing manager for the Spammobile parked at Nellis, were waiting to be served one-inch squares of chopped pork shoulder meat that also has ham, salt, water, sugar and sodium nitrite to help "keep its color."
Bob Leighton, 55, of Henderson, was one of those in line waiting. Though he was not drooling in expectation, he did have fond memories of barbecuing Spam on a camping trip on the Colorado River. And he believes that it's very possible more people will be eating Spam in the future.
"If a Republican goes to the White House again," the construction worker said, "you can bet more people will be eating canned meat."
Before her flight, Maj. Malachowski was not eating Spam. Still, she had food for her own thoughts. Her two-year gig with the Thunderbirds ends after this weekend. She's been able to travel the world, but the former homecoming queen runner-up who graduated fourth in her Air Force Academy class still considers herself "just a typical Las Vegas girl."
Oh come on.
If she's the typical Las Vegas girl, then perhaps 79-year-old Clyde Fancer is the typical Overton man. He sat outside his vintage Navion, a prop plane used to spot the enemy during the Korean War, and talked about getting rear-ended three times on the road.
"I only feel safe when I finally get to the airport and can start flying," the retired air traffic controller said. "I only had one near midair collision."
Aviation Nation: Where truth is stranger than fiction.
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim @reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2908.