Seafair provided me with my first opportunity to shoot the Blue Angels during a display since they transitioned to the Super Hornet. I was interested to see whether the display seemed any different with the new jets. Seafair is a nice location over Lake Washington but the alignment of the display box relative to the shore of the lake is not ideal and this does result in the planes being further away than for most venues. The increased size of the Super Hornet is probably a benefit in this situation.
I was interested whether the larger jets would make things seem a bit slower somehow but I didn’t notice anything in practice to support that idea. The normal tight flying that the Blues are famous for was there and, if anything, the bigger jets look closer as a result of the changed perspective. It is not that big a deal, though, so I suspect some of this was in my imagination. I would like to see them at a different location where the display axis is closer in order to get another view of the display, though.
Aside from watching the display at Lake Washington, I did also Watch them depart and return from Boeing Field. They always departed to the north and returned from the north even if everything else had been landing from the south. I spent one arrival down at the south end and watched then run the length of the runway and break for landing. It was a good spot to watch this from. Overall, I was happy with the new look for the team. I hope the jets hold up well. The Blues have a reputation of having to live with some of the oldest jets in the fleet and reliability will be something to watch.
I was at Boeing Field for the arrival of the Blue Angels for Seafair. It was a work day so I was sitting in the car and actually presenting to some colleagues via a Teams call. My presentation was underway as they were getting close but it was almost done. I was hoping that it would all wrap up before they got there. Sadly, I was wrong. I was on the final section of the presentation when they flew overhead in Delta formation. I was shut in the car but still had to explain why it had suddenly got so loud at my end.
Fortunately, that was the end of the meeting and I was able to get out of the car in time for the arrival of the individual jets for landing. I did get to see the Delta arrival again later in the weekend but I am not sure whether it is my imagination or not but it seemed lower and closer on that first occasion when I was sitting in the car with no camera.
Seafair means a lot of aircraft coming to Boeing Field. The Blue Angels are always the feature part of the show and this was going to be my first chance to see their new aircraft. Yes, they have replaced the Hornets with Super Hornets and I shall cover that separately but they have also replaced Fat Albert since last I saw them. The C-130T has been replaced with a C-130J that was sold to them by the Royal Air Force. It has a new paint scheme to complement this change of era.
I was at Boeing Field for the arrival of the Blues and the jets were preceded by the arrival of Albert. The good thing is that it is tractable on ADSB so I knew it was going to arrive and when. Of course, a Herc coming down the approach is not as dramatic as a bunch of Super Bugs blasting over in formation but it is still good. I did manage to catch it again in the coming days as part of the display so had more than one chance to get some shots.
I have posted a few times about the Red Arrows at RIAT covering their prep for display and post display. I haven’t actually shared any good shots from the display itself. Here are a few that I got over the course of the show. Some were taken close to show center and others were taken from the end of the display line to give a different perspective on the same maneuvers. They put on a great show and it is funny that, when you see them regularly, you get blasé but, when you haven’t seen them for a while, you come to appreciate the display a lot more.
I was working through some RIAT photos of the Patrouille de France display. I had some tight shots of the first four jets as they took off and, as I looked closer at them, I was confused as to why two of the jets had a more nose high attitude than the other two. Since they are taking off on formation, I figured that they should look the same.
A closer look at the images and it seems that the flap settings of the jets vary. The nose high aircraft seem to have less flap – hence their need for a higher angle of attack – than the other two jets. I have been trying the think why they would adopt this approach. With all jets accelerating together and climbing together, I had imagined that they would all be in the same configuration. I wonder whether there is something to do with the outwash from the nearby jets that requires a different configuration but I haven’t come up with anything conclusive. I throw it out to the aero engineers that read this to propose your ideas as to why. If any of you know anyone in the PdF, feel free to ask them instead!
The Red Arrows operated from ramp space at the eastern end of the show grounds at RIAT. I spent some time down there on one of the days. It provided a chance to watch them brief, crew up, start and then recover after the display. Here area. Few shots of the team in action.
RIAT is known for putting together formations of different types to celebrate certain events.The fiftieth anniversary of the first flight of Concorde resulted in two display teams getting together.Concorde was an Anglo-French collaboration and so was the celebration in this case.The Red Arrows and the Patrouille de France both fly formations to represent Concorde so, for this joint effort, both teams got airborne and flew their two Concorde formations in line astern.They made passes in each direction with the national anthems of each country playing – one on the first pass and the other on the second.It was a simple demonstration but an impressive one all the same.
We relocated to the other end of Boeing Field for the return of the Blue Angels. They ran in across the field trailing white smoke. Unfortunately, with little wind, this meant a pall of smoke was now hanging over the airport. As they broke into the downwind and then turned onto final, it was sometimes hard to see them at all. A healthy boosting of the contrast makes some of the shots a bit more visible but, in truth, the viz was really awful. I only hope they had a slightly better view of the ground than we had of them since their being able to see was slightly more important.
I am catching up on some things that happened quite a while ago. The visit of the Patrouille de France to Mather for a display as part of their US Tour was a combination of fun and frustration. I was covering the visit for GAR and had arranged to be there for the arrival, the practice and the show itself. They were supposed to show up relatively early but they had some serviceability issues and, when they finally showed up, the sun was setting.
There was still some light when the first jets flew into the pattern. As they taxied in, the light on them was rather nice. By the time the last jets (of the day) showed up, it was dark. The crews were very cheerful despite their difficult day and they spent a lot of time with some local kids for a French school. They didn’t all make it though. Two jets had diverted with problems and they would show up until late the following day. The A400M didn’t arrive until after I had left and it headed straight out the following morning to go and fix the two stragglers. The second day practice and flyby over the Golden Gate were scrubbed as a result with the flyby being achieved after the display rather than before.
It was a few days with a mix of good flying and disappointment but such is the way with aviation.
There are a number of jet display teams that are operated by militaries around the world. Private jet demo teams also exist although there are a lot less of them. The Aero Vodochody L39 Albatros is an airframe that has proved popular with private teams. In the Midwest, the Hoppers used to display with four jets while out west the Patriots team are a regular fixture. In Europe, the Breitling team has been around for a long time. I saw them when we still lived in the U.K. at a couple of shows but they decided to bring the team to the US for a couple of seasons.
My first chance to see them was at San Francisco Fleet Week. I didn’t have any expectations about how the show would be and I wasn’t super excited about seeing the team. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the show that they put on. The display was well planned and kept something going on in front of the crowd. The Albatros is not a powerful jet so they need to manage the energy well to keep the display going and they did this effectively. The backdrop of the bay was obviously a good addition to the display. They did combine the individual jets with the formation jets well. They also made good use of flares at one point during the vertical maneuvers. That is something you don’t see enough these days. Sadly, it doesn’t always translate as well on photos as it appeared when you are seeing the display.
I don’t know what the plan is for the team this year but I imagine they will need to go back to Europe at some point. Two years away must have been an expensive proposition and means they will not have made any appearances over there. Maybe they will be here again but I can’t count on it. I think they are done. Good job though.