Thursday, October 13, 2011

The fog of war(planes)

Blue Angels: "We came, we saw, we flew off."

On Sunday I decided to brave the Embarcadero crowds and take one of the young'uns downtown to see the Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels, the US Navy's premier aerial acrobatics team have been a fixture of San Francisco's Fleet Week for decades. The have brought cheers and also jeers, mainly due to noise complaints, but also their symbolism in an area where the military can be unpopular.

The Snowbirds complete
a loop.
We exited BART at Embarcadero Station and walked about a mile-and-a-half up to Pier 37, where we set up a picnic about two hours prior to the scheduled start of the Blue Angels' demonstration. Luckily, there were a few opening acts.

First up were our neighbors from our north, the Snowbirds (left), representing Canada's Armed Forces. While their jets weren't quite as fast or powerful as the Blue Angels' F-18s, the Snowbirds made up for it by using their greater numbers (nine CT-114 jets). The numbers enabled the Snowbirds to pull off some pretty complicated tricks -- such as drawing a heart in the sky with smoke, then piercing it -- back-to-back-to-back as smaller groups broke off and performed along various parts of the waterfront.

Canada's Snowbirds fly in tight formation during their Oct. 9, 2011 show in San Francisco.

F-15 on afterburner.
Next up were a couple single-plane demonstrations, a Marine Corps F/A-18 and a US Air Force F-15, which delighted the crowd with very-low (and very loud), high-subsonic passes on afterburner (right). It also did a fairly good cobra maneuver and generously showed its high-thrust abilities with quick climbs from the deck to about 15,000 feet and back down again.

Another highlight was seeing a United Airlines 747 pass low and do some pretty tricky tight turns that you don't want done on your next flight to Chicago, but are pretty impressive at an air show. The big, lumbering jumbo jet was a surprisingly exciting part of the show.

(Click on the pictures to "embiggen." The photos are perfectly cromulent.)

A United Airlines 747-400 does some impressive low passes over the San Francisco waterfront.

My son and I had enjoyed the show, thus far, and its a good thing we did, too. When the Blue Angel's C-130 support craft, "Fat Albert," (below) appeared and did a few tricks, the crowd was led to believe the main show was about to start and got excited. As "Albert" left, the F-18s came into sight and began circling.

And circling.

And circling.

The Blue Angels' C-130 support plane, "Fat Albert," does low-level turns for the fans.

Turns out some fog had rolled in, and the Blue Angels didn't feel that conditions were safe to fly 18 inches apart 20 feet above the water. They eventually had to cancel the demonstration. Alas, while the crowd was disappointed, I think a majority understood. Certainly, we had been amused in the meantime.

The fog, seen here over Alcatraz, which caused the Blue Angels to cancel  their Sunday performance.

1 comment:

Newtokia said...

Thanks for sharing, John. Too bad the Blue Angels had to cancel but I'm sure you thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment provided by (my) Canadian Snowbirds.
Last time I saw them they were doing their thing over Parliament Hill, here in Cold Country CANADA :]