Hello Friends and Family,

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Blue Angels

My entire life, I've been fascinated by flight. In fact, my dad tells a story about me when I was quite young. We were watching TV — the opening ceremony for the new Friendship International Airport near Baltimore, MD (where I grew up). An airplane was landing and I correctly identified it as a DC-3. My Uncle Whitey could not believe that his young nephew knew what kind of airplane it was. Google tells me that the airport was dedicated in 1950 — so I would have been four years old.

I suspect it came about it naturally because my dad served in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the Air Force — and my Uncle Ed served a full career in the Air Force. I recall that my dad used to take me to the airport to watch the planes land. And I was able to visit with my uncle at Edwards Air Force base and to see some of the aircraft up close and personal. I seem to recall being allowed to sit in the cockpit of a fighter jet on one such visit.

And yet, I have not been to an air show as far back as I can recall — perhaps as a child but certainly not as an adult. So when I saw that the Blue Angles were going to be performing in Goodyear, AZ — I had to go — especially since I could attend on Friday and avoid the huge weekend crows. Goodyear is a small town west and south of Phoenix and will, at some point, be considered another suburb as the metro area continues to expand.

The name comes from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company which purchased 16,000 acres in 1917 to grow cotton for the rubber tires used on World War I aircraft tires. And the name stuck.

There are still cotton farms, growing specialty cotton — long-fiber Egyptian cotton for fine clothing (I own several Aloha shirts made of Egyptian cotton and they are almost like silk).

The Phoenix area is currently enjoying some of the finest weather known to Man — perfect for watching Blue Angels or any other outdoor activity. Perfect blue skies — the only "clouds" were the vapor trails that the pilots add to their jet exhaust so you can see their path in the sky.

It is absolutely amazing to see these pilots fly their F/A-18's in such tight formation that it sometimes looks like the planes must be attached to each other. Of course, my Uncle Ed would claim that these guys are the minor league and that the Air Force Thunderbirds are the ones with the "right stuff".

I don't know but I was impressed. Especially with the skill demonstrated with their "carrier landings" — hitting an exact spot on the runway. (I don't know, do the Thunderbirds do that?)

But can you imaging what it would be like to soar in one of these planes? Climbing vertically under full power! Controlled loops forming a near-perfect circle! Flying upside down a few hundred feet above the ground! Crossing paths with the other planes with a closing speed of 1000 miles per hour!

I was discussing the performance with a friend who is a pilot with Southwest Airlines. Jokingly, I asked him if he ever does these stunts in his Boeing 737s. "Nope", he commented dryly, "smooth and level is how we do it". I guess that's why Southwest is so successful (that and the great employees like Mike).

The other thing that is so cool about about the Blue Angels' performance is how close the aircraft get to the spectators. We were perhaps 150-200 feet from the nearest runway and some of their stunts involved two planes flying toward each other at about 150-200 feet of altitude, passing each other just in front of us. Of course the roar of those military (non-silenced) jet engines was felt as much as heard.

I tried to capture that crossing maneuver with my camera but it is next to impossible with them traveling as fast as they were. I tried to estimate where they would cross but I was off just a bit — and trying to trigger the shutter at just the right time — you have to be exceedingly lucky.

And when four of them crossed immediately in front of us — priceless!

But all was not lost photographically speaking — I got some great shots. I was particularly fond of this one when they were flying in formation toward the low sun of the late afternoon near the end of their performance.

There was much more going on at the air show but I will save the rest of the story for next week.

To be continued...


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com