Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Blues

We continue to have visitors in our neck of the woods: my parents and some family friends. I took them to see the Blue Angels practice over at NAS Pensacola. Aside from my dad - who is a phenomenal aviation photographer - none of them had ever seen the Blues perform before. The same goes for my wife. They all came away very impressed.

My wife kept talking about the sound they made, how it just knocks you in the gut. It was the first time she's ever heard afterburners. Her favorite part, of course, was the "sneak pass" where the two solos come screaming by at nearly Mach 1 - one from directly behind the crowd and the other along the airfield.

Here are some pics I took with my little point-and-shoot camera. I can't wait to see the ones my dad took with his far-superior image-stabilized camera equipment.

The diamond flight in formation, smoke on and condensation popping off the wings.

Shooting for the moon

Solos doing a high-alpha pass

Solo climbing out after the high-alpha, condensation breaking off the leading edge extensions

Solo coming back down

When the Blues practice, we completely shut down the airspace around NAS Pensacola. This restriction has a radius of 6 miles and goes out to 10,000 feet, and usually lasts from 8:30am to 9:30am on the days the Blues are practicing.

It's funny to watch Sherman's Training Wing 6 scatter like ants before the dreaded 8:30am rolls around. No one can arrive or depart while the Blues have the field, so Sherman usually pumps out T-6 Texan IIs, T-39 Sabreliners, T-1 Jayhawks, and T-45 Goshawks like it's nobody's business. We'll go from two stripbays full of proposals to nothin' in no time flat.

Once the Blues start taxiing out, the gates lock up tight. A few weeks back, we had this one Jayhawk coming in at around 8:25am. The controller working Sherman tried to get him in and called up the tower. The guy was descending like a rock, flooring the gas pedal, and was only a few miles north of the field. "Sorry" the tower sup said. "The Blues are on the move." The Jayhawk had to divert to Mobile, AL.

It's just the way it goes with the Blues.


ZSE-Chris said...

I am jealous for sure that you get to work the Blue Angels as often as you do.

I'm training at ZSE right now, and got the chance to break up their ALTRAV last week so they could take some photos around Crater Lake. Lots of work to break them up, with tanker and Albert in tow, but a lot of fun as well.

africanbushpilot said...

Not bad pictures for a point and shoot camera...especially at the speed their moving

keithsat said...

Another great post (and awesome photos)!

Anonymous said...

great pics, the first one is a echelon formation, not the diamond.... same planes different location.


Wicked Penguin said...

@anon: You're right, that pic is an actual echelon formation. However, forgive for sounding like Alton Brown from Good Eats, but the "Diamond" is the general term for the 4-ship group (Blues 1 through 4) that stick together throughout the performance. It doesn't matter what formation they're actually in, that's just what that foursome is called. The other two (Blues 5 and 6) are Lead and Opposing Solos.