West Seattle Blog... » Blue Angels http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Fri, 25 Jul 2014 08:49:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Navy says Blue Angels, ‘Fleet Week’ ships returning to Seattle in 2014 http://westseattleblog.com/2013/10/navy-says-blue-angels-fleet-week-ships-returning-to-seattle-in-2014/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/10/navy-says-blue-angels-fleet-week-ships-returning-to-seattle-in-2014/#comments Mon, 21 Oct 2013 23:28:43 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=253428

(Blue Angels fly over Boeing Field, 2009 photo by David DeSiga)
An announcement by the Navy last Friday was so quiet, they’re shouting it a bit louder today – they’ve figured out how to resume “community outreach” and that means, among other things, that the Blue Angels are back in the air next year, and that some festivals will see Fleet Week ships again, including Seafair here in Seattle.

(USS Bunker Hill passing Alki Point during Seafair 2012; photo by Gary Jones)
Here’s the Navy’s announcement. You’ll recall that this year’s Seafair went without Blue Angels and a visiting fleet because of federal belt-tightening.

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Seafair says it’s official: No Blue Angels in Seattle this year http://westseattleblog.com/2013/04/seafair-says-its-official-no-blue-angels-in-seattle-this-year/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/04/seafair-says-its-official-no-blue-angels-in-seattle-this-year/#comments Tue, 09 Apr 2013 14:52:30 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=147675

(August 2012 Blue Angels view from Alki, photographed by Les Crimmins)
This morning, Seafair says it’s official – no Blue Angels this year, because of federal budget cuts. Here’s the announcement the festival posted minutes ago on Facebook:

Today we were officially informed by the US Navy Blue Angels that their season has been cancelled, including the Seafair performance, due to Federal Budget Cuts resulting from sequestration. The Blue Angels have flown at Seafair for over 40 years and are an important part of our history. The team will be deeply missed by Seattleites, however Seafair will continue in its traditional fashion. The Patriots Jet Team, which we previously announced, will now assume the lead spot in our world-class air show. The six-ship aerobatic team electrifies spectators with fast-paced formation flying, choreographed four-ship diamond formation aerobatic maneuvers and are highlighted by a computerized red, white and blue smoke system. Many of the pilots include past experience with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds and Royal Canadian Air Force.

In addition to the air show, Seafair Weekend will include H1 Unlimited hydroplane racing, F1 PROP Tour boat racing, a vintage hydroplane exhibition, a wakeboard competition featuring the top athletes in the sport, live music and activities such as a zip line and water slide. Seafair Weekend, and the Seafair festival overall, has evolved over the years. It is a festival with many facets – an eight week celebration that includes over 75 events and reaches nearly two million people.

We’re grateful for the support of our fans, volunteers, sponsors and beyond. Together, we’ve connected and celebrated as a community for the last 64 summers. We look forward to carrying on this long-standing tradition.

The last time Seafair went without the Blue Angels was in 1995, because of a conflict over FAA rules. They came back in 1996 and flew over Elliott Bay – we remember watching from Hamilton Viewpoint – before the Lake Washington concerns were worked out.

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Early alert: U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet over Seattle tomorrow http://westseattleblog.com/2013/01/early-alert-u-s-navy-blue-angels-jet-over-seattle-tomorrow/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/01/early-alert-u-s-navy-blue-angels-jet-over-seattle-tomorrow/#comments Tue, 08 Jan 2013 19:13:37 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=135842 Seafair just announced that U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet #7 will fly in tomorrow (Wednesday, January 9) for the festival’s winter planning meetings. It’s scheduled to arrive on the east side of Boeing Field around 12:30 pm tomorrow, bringing #7 Lt. Ryan Chamberlain and #8 Lt. Commander Michael Cheng. (If you’re counting the days – this year’s Seafair Air Show is scheduled for August 2nd-4th.)

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Never a sure thing, but … Blue Angels back for 2013, 2014 http://westseattleblog.com/2012/12/never-a-sure-thing-but-blue-angels-back-for-2013-2014/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/12/never-a-sure-thing-but-blue-angels-back-for-2013-2014/#comments Tue, 11 Dec 2012 20:19:42 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=133081

(August 2012 photo by Nick Adams for WSB)
Since their Seafair home, the Museum of Flight, is not far away, we consider the Blue Angels a local story when they’re here – and Seafair says they’ll be back at least two more years:

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels announced the Demonstration Squadron will return to the skies above Lake Washington as a featured performer at the Boeing Air Show at Seafair Weekend in 2013 and 2014. The announcement was made today at the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) convention in Las Vegas, Nev. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels make two-year performance commitments and previously announced their return to Seattle for 2013.

The air show is part of the eight-week summer schedule of events that culminates with Seafair Weekend featuring the Boeing Air Show and the Albert Lee Cup Hydroplane Races.

Seafair Weekend Dates
2013: Fri. Aug. 2 – Sun., Aug 4
2014: Fri., Aug. 1 – Sun., Aug. 3 – The 65th Anniversary of Seafair

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Seafair Saturday update: Watching the Blue Angels, again! http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/seafair-saturday-blue-angels-up-now/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/seafair-saturday-blue-angels-up-now/#comments Sat, 04 Aug 2012 20:47:26 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=117593

(Photo by Les Crimmins, added Saturday evening)
1:47 PM: We are at Lake Washington today, and the Blue Angels’ performance has just begun. We’ll update when it’s over.

2:29 PM: Show’s over for today. Photos later!

ADDED SATURDAY NIGHT: Photos! Thanks to Les for the top view, from West Seattle. Next, Alki photographer David Hutchinson caught the Blues as seen over the earlier-generation Blue Angels Skyhawk jet in the Museum of Flight parking lot:

The next five are from WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams:

Listening to the narrative at the lake, we were reminded that these maneuvers are called “breaks”:

Gotta love “Fat Albert”:

In the background, the Cascades:

And another high-speed pass:

One more show to go – Sunday, same time, 1:30-ish takeoff.

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Seafair update: Blue Angels’ Friday show, in the bluest of skies http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/seafair-update-blue-angels-friday-show-happening-now/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/seafair-update-blue-angels-friday-show-happening-now/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 20:37:41 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=117491

(Photo by Nick Adams for WSB)
1:37 PM: As of 1:35 pm, the Blue Angels are finally in the air – a jet similar to theirs, an FA-18 Super Hornet, performed in the Seafair airshow at 1 pm, so if you thought you heard them earlier, that’s what it was. Updates to come.

2:25 PM UPDATE: They landed a few minutes ago. Great viewing today from Boeing Field – the full “high show,” which includes more than a few maneuvers you can see from this side of the ridge.

(Photo by Nick Adams for WSB)
(Added) Here’s video of the takeoff view, from the mid-crowd perspective)

The shows tomorrow and Sunday should be around the same time – 1:30-ish takeoff. Almost anyplace you plan to view, though, get there early. Even here in the parking lot, most spaces were full by 12:30 pm.

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Video: Blue Angels pilot, crew member visit South Seattle Community College http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/blue-angels-pilot-crew-member-visit-south-seattle-community-college/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/blue-angels-pilot-crew-member-visit-south-seattle-community-college/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 17:41:20 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=117473

What do the Blue Angels do before their afternoon airshows on Seafair Weekend? Here’s one answer: Community visits for Q/A and military-recruiting outreach (which after all is the team’s stated purpose). This morning, South Seattle Community College got a visit from the officer who flies Blue Angels jet #3 this year, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Brandon Cordill, and an airframer from the enlisted support team, Sgt. Doug Green. Among the college delegation there to greet and hear from them, in a presentation that was open only to students and staff, was SSCC math teacher Heidi Lyman, who flew a ridealong during Seafair Week last year:

Cockpit video of Lyman’s flight was shown during this morning’s presentation. That’s part of the video we’re adding shortly – including Capt. Cordill’s humorous-at-times story of how he got to be a Blue Angel, as well as Sgt. Green’s story, potential inspiration for the aviation students at SSCC.

ADDED 11:20 AM: Capt. Cordill’s recounting of how he went from a not-exceptional high-school student (“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life”) with a low SAT school, to elite Blue Angels aviator inspired by 9/11 to join the military:

Capt. Cordill, by the way, is one of two Marine Corps pilots flying the Blue Angels demonstrations this year, which is rare – they usually have one. (Plus the team that flies the support C-130 “Fat Albert” is USMC, too.) Meantime, here’s the video of Heidi Lyman’s 2011 flight, as shown today:

We’ll add video of Sgt. Green’s story and the Q/A later this afternoon – heading out to Boeing Field now to see the Blue Angels take off. (Capt. Cordill says takeoff is scheduled for 1:30 pm, just in case you were wondering.)

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West Seattle Friday: Blue Angels, ballots, indoor/outdoor music & theater … http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/west-seattle-friday-blue-angels-ballots-indooroutdoor-music-theater/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/west-seattle-friday-blue-angels-ballots-indooroutdoor-music-theater/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 15:34:47 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=117458 Seafair weekend means more Blue Angels (and hydros and ship tours) in the city today – and much more you can check out without even leaving West Seattle tonight, including outdoor music and indoor theater. All that and a few more news notes:

TRAFFIC ADVISORIES: From the day-by-day/night-by-night closure list here: I-90 is closed for the Blue Angels’ practice show 12:45 pm-2:40 pm. Tonight, the Spokane Street Viaduct is closed EASTBOUND east of the 1st Avenue South exit, 10 pm, continuing till 5 tomorrow morning.

WASTE MANAGEMENT STRIKE AFTERMATH: No “recovery” pickups are scheduled in our area today, according to WM (but watch for possible word of some in the days ahead); those who have Friday pickup are asked to have everything out today, including extra for what was missed. And the city says it’ll be free to drop off up to six bags of trash/yard waste at transfer stations through Sunday (recycling is always free).

BALLOT DROPOFF VAN: Look for it in the southwest corner of the West Seattle Stadium parking lot, 10 am-5 pm today (and tomorrow and Monday, as well as 7 am-8 pm Tuesday), if you’d like to drop off your ballot for Tuesday’s primary election rather than pay for postage.

SEAFAIR – BLUE ANGELS, NAVY SHIP TOURS, HYDROS: All the schedule info is linked in our preview from last night, and we’ll be covering events throughout the day. (Toplines: The Blue Angels go up for one “practice show” today, with takeoff scheduled from Boeing Field (we say it all the time – go watch from the Museum of Flight, which has special programs throughout the weekend too!) after 1 pm. But there’s a full schedule of hydro testing and other aerial demonstrations today. And along the Seattle waterfront from Pier 46 in the south to Pier 90 in the north, you can tour any of the three ships that sailed past West Seattle on Wednesday.

SUMMER CONCERT SERIES AT THE MOUNT: First of four free Friday night concerts! Elvis stylist Danny Vernon performs tonight at 6. Dinner and drinks are available for purchase starting at 5:30. Just bring your chair/blanket to the south side of The Mount (4831 35th SW).

THE REPTILE MAN @ ALKI CC: You never know what will happen – or who will appear – at one of his shows, and tonight, he’s in West Seattle to amaze an all-ages crowd at Alki Community Center (5817 SW Stevens). 6:15 pm; details here.

SECOND ‘CORNER BAR’ AT HPIC: The Highland Park Improvement Club‘s new once-a-month incarnation happens at 6:30 tonight for the second time:

Draft beer, wine and non-alcoholic refreshments will be available at our pop-up neighborhood bar. A casual and friendly way to meet new friends and hang out with people you know. $3 gets you a beer or glass of wine, $1 for non-alcoholic beverages. We will have snacks like peanuts and pretzels – if you want more, bring your own or something to share. Special this month: Sangria. Also special: live music from the Drew Medak Trio. Classic jazz standards, fusion, modern jazz and originals on piano, bass and drums. Free admission – donations for the musicians accepted!

FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK: The Bard among the trees! GreenStage‘s “Henry VIII” is at Lincoln Park tonight, 7 pm.

OPENING NIGHT FOR ‘ANYTHING GOES’: Twelfth Night Productions (WSB sponsor) presents its summer production at West Seattle High School Theater (3000 California SW), Cole Porter‘s classic musical, 7:30 pm tonight and tomorrow, then running Fridays-Sundays the next two weekends. Tickets are available online; also, bring a nonperishable-food donation for the West Seattle Food Bank!

‘SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE JR.’ CONTINUES: Tonight at 7:30 pm at ArtsWest (4711 California SW).

FERRIS WHEEL’S LIGHT SHOW: If you want to see the Seattle Great Wheel‘s flashy colored lights (first shown here when they were tested in June), you have another chance each remaining night of Seafair, at 10 pm.

Even more on the calendar!

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Seafair Weekend eve: Blue Angels today; the schedule ahead http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/seafair-weekend-eve-blue-angels-today-the-schedule-ahead/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/08/seafair-weekend-eve-blue-angels-today-the-schedule-ahead/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2012 04:56:24 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=117450

Some West Seattleites saw them … some just heard them … no mistaking the sounds and sights of the Blue Angels practicing for Seafair Weekend today. Doug B (a frequent Flickr contributor, including the WSB group pool) shared a few of his photos – including this low pass over Lake Washington:

If tomorrow is like most Seafair Fridays, they will go up after 1 pm (leaving Boeing Field, where Museum of Flight viewing of the takeoff/landing is a don’t-miss experience too) to go through the same show they will officially perform on Saturday and Sunday.

You can see the full airshow and hydroplane schedule for all three days of Seafair Weekend by going here. (Remember that you can watch from Seafair HQ on Lake Washington for free tomorrow, but Saturday and Sunday, admission is charged.) Tours of the visiting U.S. Navy ships are scheduled to continue all three days too – that schedule is here. (Tip – if you’re going to visit the USS Bunker Hill, the West Seattle Water Taxi dock is a short walk away.)

P.S. The scheduled I-90 bridge closure times are the same each of the next three days – 12:45-2:40 pm.

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Video: Blue Angels have arrived for Seafair 2012! http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/blue-angels-have-arrived-for-seafair-2012/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/blue-angels-have-arrived-for-seafair-2012/#comments Tue, 31 Jul 2012 18:09:50 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=117151

11:09 AM: Just touching down now at Boeing Field, after a flyby. More shortly.

11:28 AM: Our Blue Angels flyby video is up, shot from the parking lot north of the Boeing Field tower starting as soon as one of the handful of others watching from here shouted “OVER THERE!” They subsequently landed and taxied two by two to the Museum of Flight, where a ceremonial Seafair welcome awaited. Their official practicing doesn’t start until Thursday morning; we always recommend coming to the MoF at least once during Seafair weekend to watch the takeoff – optimal for the full practice show Friday afternoon, or the official performances Saturday and Sunday. The MoF itself offers special events Friday-Sunday (read about them here) and it’s not far from West Seattle – take the 1st Avenue South Bridge north to the Michigan exit, turn right on East Marginal, head south past Boeing Field to the museum. Our other favorite Seafair Blue Angels-viewing tip is to go to Lake Washington on Friday, when admission is free, to see both the airshow and the early hydroplane action.

2:15 PM P.S. – Some of the Seafair Navy fleet ships are coming in this afternoon too, prior to tomorrow’s official “Parade of Ships/Flight” starting in the 1 pm hour. We’ll have a separate story with photos a bit later.

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Highway closures ahead: 5 southbound 99 closures EVERY week till fall; northbound closure ahead too; plus, Blue Angels dates http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/highway-closures-ahead-5-southbound-99-closures-every-week-till-fall-northbound-closure-ahead-too-plus-blue-angels-dates/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/07/highway-closures-ahead-5-southbound-99-closures-every-week-till-fall-northbound-closure-ahead-too-plus-blue-angels-dates/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 21:17:21 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=115857 Just in case you weren’t clear from yesterday’s WSDOT announcement, we doublechecked today – the Sunday-through-Thursday-night overnight closures of the southbound Alaskan Way Viaduct/99 stretch between downtown and the West Seattle Bridge are planned EVERY week from now till fall weather arrives.

Also just announced, in this week’s edition of the Construction Lookahead update, there will be a weekend NORTHBOUND closure at the end of this month (this time frame includes the Seafair Torchlight Run closure):

July 28-30, northbound lanes of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be closed between the West Seattle Bridge and S Royal Brougham Way on-ramp from 5:30 PM Saturday through 5 AM Monday. The northbound lanes will be open north of Royal Brougham after the completion of the Torchlight Run the evening of July 28th.

And if you’re planning even further ahead, the Construction Lookahead also includes the I-90 bridge closure times/dates for Blue Angels practices and airshows in early August: Thursday, August 2, 9:45 am to noon AND 1:15-2:30 pm, plus Friday-Sunday, August 3rd-5th, 12:45 pm-2:40 pm each day.

P.S. A few minutes after we published this, SDOT came out with its list of what’s ahead for next week for the Spokane Street Viaduct. As previously mentioned, NO full closures, in either direction, but some overnight lane closures are in store – read on:

Thursday, July 19 – Friday, July 20

· Eastbound traffic on the Spokane Street Viaduct between I-5 and SR 99 will be reduced to one lane both nights from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. the following morning. Both the First and Fourth Avenue S off-ramps will remain open.
· North/south traffic on Fourth Avenue S at S Spokane Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction both nights from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. the following morning. Traffic will be shifted to the east or west sides of the intersection.

Tuesday, July 24

· North/south traffic on First Avenue S at S Spokane Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction overnight from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, July 25

· North/south traffic on Fourth Avenue S at S Spokane Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction overnight from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

Thursday, July 26 – Friday, July 27

· Southbound traffic on E Marginal Way S will be detoured to the west at S Spokane Street both nights from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. the following morning.

Monday, July 30 – Friday, August 3

· The eastbound First Avenue S off-ramp will be closed nightly from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. the following morning.

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Heads up: Blue Angels jet arriving at Boeing Field tomorrow http://westseattleblog.com/2012/01/heads-up-blue-angels-jet-arriving-at-boeing-field-tomorrow/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/01/heads-up-blue-angels-jet-arriving-at-boeing-field-tomorrow/#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2012 18:11:02 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=96781 A West Seattle fan of the Blue Angels just asked us the other day if one of the jets would be here again this year for the Seafair winter planning meetings – and indeed, word just arrived, Blue Angels jet #7 is expected around 1:15 tomorrow afternoon at Boeing Field, with an 11 am Thursday departure planned. Seafair says Blue Angels #7 Lieutenant Mark Tedrow and #8 Lieutenant Todd Royles will be on board. This year’s airshow is set for August 3rd-5th. (Our coverage of last year’s winter visit is here.)

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Seafair says the Blue Angels will be back at least two more years http://westseattleblog.com/2011/12/seafair-says-the-blue-angels-will-be-back-for-at-least-two-more-years/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/12/seafair-says-the-blue-angels-will-be-back-for-at-least-two-more-years/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2011 18:51:54 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=93837

(August 2011 photo by David Hutchinson)
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can see/hear them from here – and they’re not going away. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are coming back to Seafair for at least two more summers. Just announced:

The official news release from Seafair:

U.S. NAVY BLUE ANGELS WILL RETURN TO SEAFAIR THROUGH 2013

he U.S. Navy Blue Angels announced the Demonstration Squadron will return to the skies above Lake Washington as a featured performer at the Boeing Seafair Air Show in 2012 and 2013. The announcement was made today at the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) convention in Las Vegas, Nev. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels make two-year performance commitments and previously announced their return to Seattle for 2012. 



The air show is part of the summer schedule of events that culminates with Seafair Weekend featuring the Boeing Air Show and Albert Lee Cup Hydroplane Races.

Seafair Weekend Dates
2012: Fri., Aug. 3 – Sun., Aug. 5.
2013: Fri., Aug. 2 – Sun., Aug. 4

The Blue Angels’ mission is to enhance U.S. Navy and Marine Corps recruiting efforts and to represent the naval service to the United States, its elected leadership and foreign nations. The Blue Angels serve as positive role models for young people, and goodwill ambassadors for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

A complete show schedule is available at www.blueangels.navy.mil.

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Seafair Sunday: Blue Angels fly, but without ‘Fat Albert’ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/08/seafair-sunday-blue-angels-fly-but-without-fat-albert/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/08/seafair-sunday-blue-angels-fly-but-without-fat-albert/#comments Sun, 07 Aug 2011 21:30:38 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=82337

After that Museum of Flight flyby, the Blue Angels landed at Boeing Field about 15 minutes ago, concluding their Seafair 2011 performances. No “Fat Albert” today, though – the C-130 always goes up before the six F/A-18′s, but that didn’t happen today because of what official Seafair station KIRO reported via Twitter was a “maintenance issue.” (Good thing WSB’s Christopher Boffoli chose Saturday for his flight – see his story here with video and photos, if you haven’t already.) We watched today’s pre-takeoff events from the fence facing the six jets’ parking area – a closer view than the media zone:

For our fellow aviation fans, we’ll be in touch with Seafair to find out when they’re flying out; next weekend, they’re scheduled to perform in Fargo, North Dakota.

ADDED: Seafair says they’re expected to leave Tuesday morning, but will doublecheck the time on Monday. Meantime, one more great photo, from David Hutchinson:

As he captioned it … “show’s over.”

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Video/photos: Go sky-high with the Blue Angels’ ‘Fat Albert’ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/08/videophotos-go-sky-high-with-the-blue-angels-fat-albert/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/08/videophotos-go-sky-high-with-the-blue-angels-fat-albert/#comments Sun, 07 Aug 2011 09:26:08 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=82268

(Watch for the view of West Seattle – and the SBX – through the open cargo door!)
Story, photos, and video by Christopher Boffoli
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

At the age of 10, I was delighted to be just tall enough to ride the infamous Rebel Yell roller coaster at Kings Dominion in Virginia. A big part of the victory was that my super-competitive but shorter younger brother wasn’t. He had to cool his jets with the parents while I happily went through the turnstile to ride with my pretty teenage cousin.

However, the victory of my foray into big-kid territory was short-lived once we were strapped in and began to ascend the coaster’s towering first hill. With the ominous sound of clicking, we lurched ever closer to the top – and the inevitable drop on the other side. It was one of the first times I remember experiencing what it was like to suffer the consequences of a choice (not to mention to know how it felt to set a land-speed record for regret).

Of course I immediately jumped at the chance to fly aboard the Blue Angels’ C-130 support aircraft that they call “Fat Albert.”

But it wasn’t until after I enthusiastically said “yes” that I did a bit of research on what the flight would entail. Compared with the Blue Angels’ famous sleek F/A-18 Hornets, the 150,000-pound Fat Albert looked like a chunky, lumbering cargo plane.

I hadn’t seen it fly before but figured it might do a few low passes, wave its wings around, and we’d be back on terra firma for a photo op. I figured wrong. With an exhilarating, stomach-churning flight, I was reminded again of just how deceiving looks can be.

The United States Marine Corps has flown Fat Albert, or “Bert” as they call it, since 1975, in support of the Navy Blue Angels. It’s named after a TV cartoon show that was popular at the time. It’s a supply-and-logistics aircraft that flies personnel, equipment, and spare parts between shows. In fact, immediately after its flight this morning, the crew of Fat Albert loaded a malfunctioning engine from Blue Angel jet number 5, which they told us they would be flying to Naval Air Station Lemoore (in central California) for replacement:

The Lockheed C-130T is a versatile military aircraft, the only one of its kind to remain in continuous production for more than 50 years. It has a wingspan of just over 132 feet and a top speed of 366 mph.

After we were escorted out to the flight line this morning, we were invited to clamber around a bit and explore the aircraft.

That was followed by extremely thorough briefings, first for the crew and then for the passengers, by Fat Albert’s commander for our flight, Marine Captain Edward Jorge (at left in photo below, with co-pilot Capt. Ben Blanton).

It was as if Capt. Jorge had memorized every maneuver of the fairly long flight we were about to take, complete with detailed references to the terrain over which we’d be flying. He told us the maneuvers were not designed merely to impress the spectators, but had their genesis in combat maneuvers that were routinely employed in theaters of war.

When we were ready to go, we loaded up and strapped ourselves in. Two lucky people were seated behind the pilots at the back of the flight deck, while a young Marine Staff Sergeant, who was along for our ride, was elected to ascend a ladder and sit with his head protruding from a clear plastic bubble at the top of the fuselage.

The rest of us sat in bench seats along each side of the empty cargo bay. Double seat belts ensured that we’d stay secure for our acrobatic flight. The view to the outside was limited to a few high porthole windows, fore and aft, as well as larger windows towards the tail by the “paratrooper doors.” This wasn’t a plane designed for pleasure flights.

Airsickness bags were distributed to everyone with a warning to not let pride prevent you from taking one, as people were commonly sick on the flights. I took one dutifully, though as an experienced sailor and veteran of many choppy flights on small aircraft, I didn’t think I’d need it. I reassured myself that I’ve never been seasick, carsick, or airsick. But in the back of my mind I heard the clicking of a roller-coaster car.

As we taxied out to the runway, the aft cargo door was opened, providing an unusual view of Boeing Field and the crowds assembled for the show. They closed the doors just before takeoff, and we waited for what seemed like ten minutes before being cleared to fly. Then we turned onto the runway for blastoff.

The plane accelerated aggressively, much more powerfully than an airliner, lifting gently just a few feet off the runway, paralleling it until we had reached sufficient speed to climb sharply. The force of gravity was immediately double that of normal. My body and camera felt leaden. At the apex of our steep climb, the captain pushed the plane over the top of the arc, giving us a few seconds of free-fall. The Marine crew members, who weren’t strapped in like everyone else, rose to their feet, tethered only by their hands on a ladder which was secured to the cargo bay floor. We all laughed in delight. Stomachs felt fine. That wasn’t so bad.

From there the rest of the flight quickly devolved into a blur. Geographical reference points occasionally passed one of the tiny windows. The plane went into roll maneuvers. Buildings and trees a second later were featureless white clouds. There’s a bit of SODO. Then Elliott Bay. There’s Beacon Hill’s PacMed Building (until recently the home of Amazon.com). The plane rolls again. Back to white.

Perhaps my favorite part of the flight was a delightfully level and steady part of the program in which the aft cargo door was opened again. A couple of crew members, secured to the aircraft with elaborate harnesses, walked right up to the edge and looked out.

The view was breathtaking as we executed wide turns: Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula, and then Downtown and Elliott Bay again, followed by the northern part of the West Seattle peninsula. Marvelous.

Minutes later the door was closed and we were once again rocketing across the landscape. There were a few more dips and arcs, doubling and then erasing gravity like some kind of bizarre Newtonian Algebra equation. The porthole windows continually alternated with trees and clouds as arc-light rays of sun raked across the interior of the cargo bay. Then we were over Lake Washington, flying sideways, seemingly forty feet off the water, with hundreds of white pleasure boats whipping by in a blur.

It was perhaps 2/3 of the way into the flight when I felt it happening. My breathing grew rapid. I began to perspire, despite the fact I could feel cool air blowing on my bare arms and legs and knew I wasn’t warm. I had no consistent view to any kind of horizon and my sense of equilibrium was totally confused. I saw some others reaching for their sick bags. But not me. No, I did all I could to fight it off. I breathed deeply. I swallowed continuously. Minutes dragged by. I locked my eyes on the windows to get some semblance of orientation to the ground. But then another tight turn, another series of rolls and not only was my body no longer speaking the same language as my mind, it simply wasn’t listening.

The final minutes of the flight were a struggle to coordinate the logistics of my own in-flight anti-meal service, with my desire to continue to record with my camera the physics experiment continuing to transpire around me.

Fat Albert’s swan song was a steep dive to the runway. The aft door was opened wide once again, to the much-appreciated view of daylight, a straight horizon, and the oddly comforting smell of fresh air mixed with jet exhaust. We taxied back to the parking-area fences still lined with admiring throngs, and exited the plane while mopping our brows and cleaning ourselves up.

Our pilots and crew emerged from the plane, in their superhero-hued flight suits, as unruffled and chipper as they were before the flight.

As we stood around asking questions and taking more pictures, I felt myself smiling again. But I was unsure whether I could attribute it to the exhilaration of the flight or to the gratitude I once again felt to be standing on level ground.

After my Virginia roller coaster ride, I was inconsolable. My cousin kindly offered to buy me a snow cone to get me to stop crying. That I refused such a treat speaks to my level of post-ride trauma. I’d go on to ride many roller coasters. But the horror of that first big one would always somehow be indelible.

There were no snow cones offered after the flight today. Just glossy certificates with a photo of the aircraft, the signatures of the pilots and crew, and best wishes from the Blue Angels and “Fat Albert Airlines.” The experience had some unpleasant moments. But I’m sure I’ll look back on it mostly as a privilege and happy that I was tall enough to spend an hour playing in the skies with the big kids.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Either from Boeing Field or Lake Washington, you can see Fat Albert fly one more time later today (Sunday) just before the six Blue Angels go up (takeoff is usually between 1 and 1:30 pm). We recommend the Museum of Flight, for the dramatic “steep dive” Christopher mentions – plus a low flyby – and the crew member visible from the top “bubble” holding a flag as they taxi after landing.

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