The Blue Angels receive between 70 and 100 requests every year. As you know, the Blue Angels are primarily a recruitment tool and being that means consideration is given to certain areas based on criteria and objectives that are set out program wide. For example one thing we look for is diversity. But we do not make the decision alone. There are multiple departments that have a say in the final schedule; NAVCO Outreach, Parent Command, Chinfo Media Center and of course the Blue Angels Squadron as well.
Yes there are 3 that are on the schedule every year. Two are in Pensacola Florida because it is our home base and the other is the US Naval Academy Graduation Ceremonies.
Well we spend January to March in El Centro, CA for training. Even though the performance remains the same every year we train constantly. In March we leave El Centro and start our performances. The schedule is divided by East and West shows. We perform at shows starting in March and ending in November. Year round the team works 6 days a week with Mondays off including 6 days a week physical training. Pilot training is extremely critical because of dealing with G force.
Well Atlantic City is a unique show because it is held mid-week, typically shows are held on the weekend. So we arrive at the host city for the show on Thursday. We have practice on Thursday and Friday and we perform on Saturday and Sunday. We also get in some community outreach on Fridays with a school or hospital or some other community oriented organization such as Girls and Boys Clubs, Boy or Girl Scouts, etc.
Well, the team that travels includes the pilots and about 55-70 support personnel. These are with the team directly and travel to all of the shows. At the host base or airport, there is an additional team of support. Here in Atlantic City, for example, we are hosted by the 177th Fighter Wing and they will provide an additional 130 people for the days that we are here. And in the host city and surrounding area, there will be a staff briefing for EMS, Police and Fire personnel who will be trained by us in the special needs surrounding the jets and pilots should there be any emergency.
It is, and the reason is that it is such a precise and perfectly orchestrated performance. Everything from the ground crew to the tower people need to be exact for the show to run as it does and for the safety of our pilots and the spectators.
The job I have concerning security and safety has to do with positioning. It is really about spacing. I monitor spacing between the Blue Angels Flight team when they are flying. The spacing is crucial in every phase of the show; the flying, the maneuvers etc. Also, we grade the team in "real time" which is necessary for safety as well. There is a team of 3 people monitoring here at the base and another 3 people at the tower at the show. Every aspect of the performance is constantly monitored.
No, rain would not cancel a show. Weather can be a factor but it would be low cloud cover under 1000ft. Also a pilot being ill or unable to fly would not cancel the show unless the "Boss" pilot was unable to fly. That would most certainly cancel the show. (The boss pilot is the commander/lead pilot of the team).
A lot of the questions I had, have finally been answered. Now I have this whole operation in perspective and it is even more remarkable then I had imagined. I wanted to get a better idea of exactly what takes place behind the scenes and I sure did. It was great fun being out on the flight line with the jets and the team as they practiced and prepared for the show. (Did I mention it was about 1000 degrees out there?) What I hope I did was give all of you some really great insights into just how much goes into putting on a performance like the Blue Angels. Keep in mind there are hundreds and hundreds of unsung heroes who are also on the team as well as the support personnel. And that doesn't even take into consideration the local show planners, sponsors, marketers, emergency personnel and many many others. The next time you attend an air show keep that in mind and appreciate just how hard many people work so that you have an unbelievable experience.