Friday, October 10, 2008

Fleet Week - Air Display Practice

Hundreds of people stood at the end of the pier at Fisherman's Wharf this afternoon and lined the bay to watch a thrilling air display practice for Fleet Week with the Blue Angels and F-16 Fighting Falcon as the stars of the show.

The Blue Angels roared in,
swooping and rolling in formation and thundering across the water with breathtakingly 'near misses'.

In blue and yellow colours that blended with the sky, they flew upside down, at times with their wheels down, and performed choreography with trailing plumes that left the watching crowd awestruck.

There are six in the team, flying the F/A-18 Hornets with a Diamond Formation of four, and two solo pilots, plus the six-jet Delta Formation
described on the Fleet Week website as 'the pinnacle of precision flying.'

Standing next to me were Glenn and Michelle, visiting today from the Bay Area. Today is the day, said Glenn, when VIP guests fly with the pilots. He recalled his local radio show host taking a ride in another air show last year. They give you a taped recording of it, which is interesting! he said.

Michelle was enthusiastic at the thought of being in a Blue Angel.

'I'd like to think that if I'm given the opportunity, I'd say "yes". I'd live in abject fear for 30 seconds but I wouldn't like to miss the opportunity!" she said.

Our spot at the end of Pier 39 turned out to be strategic as the pilots used it as their entry and exit point for some of their routines. The noise was tremendous as they zoomed overhead.

The first real roar of the afternoon came from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, known to military pilots as the Viper. It came wheeling in over the city and across the wharf. However, whether it's a Falcon, a Viper or anything else was probably not uppermost in the minds of the colony of seals basking on their platoons.

As the Falcon roared in, the seals responded. Some jumped into the water, but most began to bark, and bark they continued to do throughout the performance and that of the Blue Angels who followed. It was some competing cacophony of sound, but the jets won the decibel count - just!

The Falcon and pilot showed off their prowess, joined for part of their routine by a second jet. Then they finale-d with a dramatic corkscrew upwards until lost from sight.

The afternoon's display was opened by Team Oracle and other smaller planes performing fun aerobatics with one plane appearing to loop under the Golden Gate Bridge.

The waters of the Bay were seeing plenty of action, too. Coast guards had cleared the central area but cruise ships laden with people floated alongside the wharf to be as close to the action as possible. Near Sausalito, plenty of yachts bobbed up and down.

Three pelicans also performed a mini fly past in formation over the end of the stone jetty!

Many of the people watching on the wharf were wielding an array of cameras. But catching these planes with a camera is no easy task.

I spotted one man with an impressive 600 mm lens. He turned out to be Colin, a friendly, retired professional photographer from the north of England.

'The problem is keeping in touch, keeping up with it (the plane) and keeping it in focus,' he explained. Long-distance shots, he said, are easier than close-ups with the jets speeding past at 400 to 500 mph.

'Tracking it with a big lens like this is very difficult because it (the camera) is focussing on a very small area,' he said.

Colin, who was there with his wife Evelyn, also holding a camera - 'I just take snaps!' - are visiting their son in the city and looking forward to tomorrow's show.

I waved my digital camera at Colin. 'It's very difficult with this!' I said.

He agreed and with bemusement said there were even people taking pics with mobile phones.

Two days ago, he said, he was on the headland behind the Golden Gate Bridge taking sunset shots, alongside people attempting to do the same with tiny flash guns. 'Really little flash guns!'

'You can't blame everyone for not knowing what they're doing!' he said congenially.

The adrenaline-packed show raced on and as the Blue Angels' performance came to an end, Glenn summed it up: 'That's an impressive display of technology and skill -that's for sure!'

The air shows, also including the Canadian Air Force Snowbirds, are tomorrow (Sat) and Sunday, on both days at 12.30 pm to 3 pm with the Blue Angels at 3 pm to 4 pm.

Fleet Week events start tomorrow with a Parade of Fleet Week Ships sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm.

Other activities include ship tours over Sunday to Tuesday, a festival at Fort Mason, a music festival at Pier 39 and family entertainment at Ghirardelli Square.

For full info:

pics by Colin show: F-16 Fighting Falcon with F-86; the Blue Angels in Delta Formation; Team Oracle.

For two albums of fantastic professional pics covering both the practice and first air display on Saturday from Colin and Evelyn, click here: Album 1 Album 2

Colin - retired professional photographer. For more pics by me click here

No comments: