On Saturday, October 23, 2010, the Blue Angels put on an amazing performance at the NAS Jacksonville Airshow. On the base itself, the event displayed several planes, and even a semi truck that had been altered to run on three jet engines. Many different planes flew, demonstrating their incredible capabilities. People jumped out of planes and parachuted to the ground, some with flags flown from their feet. Amazing sights all around, but the real spectacle of the day was yet to come.
After several hours wandering among the various planes and helicopters, learning about their history and even climbing inside some of them, and watching several other planes as their pilots showed off their very impressive skills, the Blue Angels took to the sky.
With their amazing military precision and a minimum of 120 training flights under their belts, seeing the Blue Angels in flight is an experience that simply cannot be beat. Even the men who remove the tire chocks work with military precision.
During some maneuvers, Blue Angel pilots maintain only 18 inches between the wing and canopy of the planes – merely a foot and a half of space separates their planes from what would be certain disaster in a mishap. They can align themselves in seconds with their fellow pilots simply by looking to see where they are. These pilots are so skilled that at top speed, they can maintain perfect distance from each other, stack their jets on top of each other, and time their turns, tilts, and rolls to perfectly match and never fail.
A crowd of 277,000 was immediately captivated by the vision of these electrifying machines starting, rolling down the runway and taking off into the air. Listening to narration by a Blue Angel pilot, no one moved except to try to get closer to the action. Men, women, and children were all stunned by the abilities these pilots demonstrated.
The pilots are not the only part of the Blue Angels team. Just as important, if not more so, are the men and women who work behind the scenes to ensure that each plane is in perfect flying condition. Each plane is thoroughly checked out before each demonstration. Fat Albert, the C130T Hercules that accompanies the team, always flies equipped with spare parts in case anything should be found to be in less than top shape. And Fat Albert, clumsy though the name may sound, is no less breathtaking to view than the jets themselves.
The Blue Angels mission is to enhance Navy recruiting, and their show certainly does serve that purpose. Anyone watching the demonstration would be hard-pressed to deny wanting to be a Blue Angel pilot at that moment.
The Blue Angels were established on April 24, 1946, by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Their name came from the original team while planning a 1946 show in New York. One of the original pilots was reading the New Yorker magazine and came across the name of the Blue Angel nightclub. The first show was performed at Craig Field, in Jacksonville on June 15, 1946.
The history of the Blue Angels is fascinating to read and learn about, but the demonstrations they give are simply astonishing.