2015-08-01

Blue Angels at Seafair

Blue Angels in formation.
All six F/18s of the Blue Angels.
Every year since 1972, with a couple of exceptions, the Blue Angels have performed at Seafair. Seafair is a Seattle event, that includes parades, hydroplane races, marathons, and other activities. The most popular part of it, though, is the air show. The air show includes lots of different performances, but what everyone comes to see are the Blue Angels.

With the smoke on.
The Blue Angels are the U.S. Navy's flight demonstration squadron. They are a highly visible way of demonstrating Navy aircraft, their pilots and capabilities. The Navy considers them one of their primary recruiting tools. Considering how many people they reach and entertain, their $37 million annual budget does not seem excessive.

Since 1986, the Blue Angels have flown F-18/A/B/C/D Hornet aircraft. These are highly maneuverable, twin tailed fighter jets. The most modern jets in that class are F-18E/F Super Hornets. These are larger, but most of the reason for the upgrades are better avionics, weapon carrying capacity and fuel capacity, which would not help in an air show. The main difference between the air show aircraft and the military aircraft is a different flight stick, and the nose cannon has been replaced by the smoke generator. The Navy claims they can turn the Blue Angels F-18s into combat ready aircraft within 72 hours.

Blue Angels completing a loop
and about to be attacked by a giant dragonfly.
For Seafair, they come out and practice, then hold shows on Saturday and Sunday. They have to close the I-90 bridge for a couple of hours during the show. Also boat traffic is restricted from I-90 south.

All of them looping at once.
There are six aircraft in the show. Four aircraft fly together most of the time, while the two most experienced pilots fly more difficult maneuvers separately most of the time.

We went out for a sail to see them. We never got south of the 520 bridge, so most of the time they were quite a ways away. However, for a few maneuvers, they come pretty far north.

Kiteboarder on Lake Washington.
Sandi and Taylor.
Right after the show, there were about 100 powerboats all headed right for us. They had all been south of the 520 bridge and came through the eastern high-rise passage.

We stopped at Carilon Point in Kirkland for a break, then proceeded to tack back up the lake, watching the kite boarders. A very nice day of sailing.

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