Andrew Kolstad brought his camera and his curiosity to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
The Tacoma man was one of a few thousand people who made the trek to the base Saturday to get a closer look at naval aircraft, including the EA-18G Growler, P-3C Orion, MH-60 Knighthawk helicopter, the new C-40 Clipper and a visiting P-8A Poseidon, which will soon replace the P-3Cs here.
Kolstad, who formerly served in the Army, is a military aviation buff who marks his calendar for events like this one.
“We get to see the stuff they don’t normally let you see,” he said.
Nearby, Ken Hildenbrandt from Abbotsford, B.C., who has a private pilot’s license, stared into a jet turbine, marveling at its size.
“We aviation nuts are pretty crazy,” he said. “It’s cool to get a look at these.”
The base annually opens its doors to the public. After passing through layers of security, visitors could check out a number of displays inside a hangar or wander outside onto the tarmac to see the aircraft and talk with the people who maintain and fly them.
People lined up to take bus tours of the base and watched demonstrations by search-and-rescue K-9 working dogs. Bouncy toys and a giant climbing wall were set up inside the hangar.
Lt.jg. Roman Klimchuk, 25, flies a P-3C for VQ-1, a maritime patrol squadron. He was on hand Saturday to answer questions, his aircraft not far from the flashier Growler.
Still, plenty of people wandered up to check out the big bird and chat, including an awe-struck boy who wanted a high-five.
Talking with the public provided a moment of perspective from the day-to-day grind of his job.
“This reminds me of why I signed up,” he said.