Blue Angels thrill spectators in San Francisco

Blue Angels over San Francisco Bay (Photo: Steve Mullen).

Blue Angels over San Francisco Bay (Photo: Steve Mullen).

Fleet Week brought the thrill of aerobatics from a variety of pilots in the annual air show held last Saturday and Sunday over San Francisco Bay. The Blue Angels demonstrated the incredible capabilities of the team’s precision flying to conclude the show in a grand finale. Other branches of the military, as well as civilian pilots, had the opportunity to showcase their special aircraft and skills.

After a cooler than usual summer the Bay Area rejoiced in the late season heat wave, turning out in droves along the waterfront and in a wide range of vessels on the water, from tiny kayaks to luxurious yachts. Sailboats darted between larger motorized craft, while large tankers were diverted around Angel Island, away from the flight path between the waterfront and Alcatraz.

H-60 Combat Search and Rescue Helicopters over Alcatraz (Photo: Steve Mullen)

H-60 Combat Search and Rescue Helicopters over Alcatraz (Photo: Steve Mullen)

The air show began at 1 pm with a demonstration of the USCG HH-64 rescue helicopter. Next the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet, a larger version of the F/A-18 jets the Blue Angels fly, swooped over the bay, chasing away the wisps of fog that were burning off. The Super Hornet is supersonic, capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound at Mach 1 (769 mph). A demonstration of the H-60 Combat Search and Rescue Helicopters followed. The air show included three dazzling aerobatic performers, Tim Weber, sponsored by Geico, John Klatt, sponsored by the National Guard and Sean Tucker of Team Oracle, twirling and twisting in gravity defying maneuvers.

Patriot Jet Demonstration Team (Photo: Steve Mullen)

The Patriot Jet Demonstration Team warmed up the crowds with precision formation flying, showing their colors with red, white and blue smoke erupting from the tails of their L-35 jets. They performed their signature “tail slide” where the aircraft slides backward toward the ground.

United Airlines Boeing 747 (Photo: Steve Mullen)

United Airlines Boeing 747 (Photo: Steve Mullen)

An unusual component of the air show, repeated from last year, was the United Airlines Boeing 747 wide body plane slowly circling the Bay at a very low altitude and speed, seemingly drifting on a thermal. It was a bit disconcerting to see the underside of such a large craft from this unique angle. Watching the plane approaching the Golden Gate Bridge, hearing the whine of the engines and watching the landing gear lower and retract was remarkable.

Blue Angels (Photo: Steve Mullen)

Blue Angels (Photo: Steve Mullen)

At last the Blue Angels appeared in the sky, preceded by a demonstration of the C-130-T Hercules aircraft referred to affectionately at Fat Albert. The crowd cheered for Fat Albert and then the F/18 Hornet jets burst over the Bay with a roar. The four-plane Diamond Formation and the six-jet Delta Formation thrilled spectators, as they have since 1946. Coming in over the Golden Gate Bridge a single plane was visible as a small speck in the quiet sky, startling the uninitiated with the howl of the jet engine as they passed overhead, flying so low it looked as though they would clip the masts of sailboats bobbing under the flight path.

Blue Angels (Photo: Steve Mullen)

Blue Angels (Photo: Steve Mullen)

The Blue Angels are a perennial favorite in air shows, performing in front of more than 8 million spectators a year in 68 air shows. Their next show is in Dobbins AFB, GA on October 16-17, followed by NAS Jacksonville, FL on October 23-24. The complete schedule is available at http://www.blueangels.navy.mil/index.htm.

Fleet Week has been celebrated in San Francisco since 1908 to honor the dedication of the armed forces. The modern Fleet Week era began in 1981 under then Mayor Diane Feinstein, and is comprised of many events focused on maritime traditions and the different branches of the military.

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