By Lt.j.g. Amber Lynn Daniel
Blue Angels Public Affairs Officer
It is a new year, and your U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, are already hard at work preparing for the 2015 air show season. Last week we relocated the entire squadron from our headquarters in Pensacola, Florida to our annual training facility in sunny El Centro, California, and we are thrilled to be back in the skies doing what we do best!
The week has begun with an aggressive flight schedule – two to three flights a day for both the Diamond formation (which includes Boss and pilots 2, 3 and 4) and the Solos (pilots 5 and 6). Flying the demonstration is a physically demanding task, and practicing this many times a day – from sunup to sundown – means every member of the team must bring their “A” game.
With our flight schedule in full force, I was offered a chance to take a backseat ride today. This was my first one with the 2015 team, and although our new pilots have only been flying training flight together for a week, they are already looking sharp. Flight training begins by practicing formation flying and basic maneuvers. With each flight, our new team sets the building blocks for more complicated maneuvers. But there are no “easy” flights – every flight requires precision and total concentration. During these initial flights the pilots learn what markers on the jet to focus on (Also known as “flying paint” – for many maneuvers, pilots 2 and 3 fly formation by focusing their eyes on specific points on Boss’ jet) and how to move the plane for each particular maneuver. By our first show March 14, they will have flown more than 120 training flights; the culmination of those flights at the El Centro Air Show will demonstrate the world-renowned eighteen inch wingtip-to-canopy separation the Blue Angels are known for.
As the Public Affairs Officer, I am fortunate to often be granted the opportunity of flying in the backseat during practices. I’m often asked “What is it like to ride in the back of a jet?” This can be tough to explain, but I’ll try. Think of it as trying to drive a car while someone continues to add and remove sacks of flour on your body. These sacks each weigh the same weight as your body. For some maneuvers, the pilots will experience 7 g’s (G is short for gravitational force) – the equivalent of 7 of those sacks of flour pushing down on you!
During today’s practice, the team focused on maneuvers that are relatively low G, mostly two to three. Although it doesn’t sound like much, don’t be fooled! After an hour in the backseat, I emerged from the jet covered in sweat and shaking with the effort of sustaining alternating low G forces. It made me appreciate the efforts our pilots go through – the same efforts Navy pilots around the world face around the world, around the clock. It isn’t an easy job – but they make it look that way!
We will be periodically checking back in to Navy Live to update you on the team’s progress. This is America’s Navy, and the Blue Angels are your flight demonstration team. It is an honor and a privilege to wear the Blue Angel flight suit, and we will continue to work hard to perform to the standards set by our predecessors all the way back in 1946. Wish us luck and clear skies!