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This flight takes an hour. As soon as the Diamond lands, the solos launch for the same thing, also flying for an hour. When the solos land, they hurry back to the ready room, where everyone briefs for a practice demo. This flight also lasts about an hour.
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So you can see for all the pilots, this is their 3rd flight of the day on Thursday, and for all the maintainers, they have been working pretty darn hard to make sure all the jets are good to go for all this flying. For me as 8, Thursdays were my big fly day. Great stuff, and a huge morale boost. Thursdays are also media day. Once the practice was complete, all the officers reconvened in the ready room where the practice, which was taped, would be debriefed. These tape debriefs are long and tedious, but are the real secret behind the BA's success, as they afford the pilots an opportunity to see their mistakes so they can be fixed.
By the time this is all over, it is usually around pm and it has been a busy 12 hour or more day. Off to the hotel to check-in, get dinner, work out, unwind, whatever. Friday AM we have recruiting visits to local high schools. Usually back to the hotel by , grab a quick lunch, then around you are meeting the caravan for the drive to the airfield.
Caravan's were police escorted, not because the Blues are all high and mighty, but because we have a tight timeline to meet and the unknowns of a new town, airshow traffic etc are not conducive to staying on timeline. Once we arrive at the airfield, it is to the ready room to brief and prepare for the practice flight. Usually on Fridays we have a guest rider in either the 4 or the 5 spot. For example, maybe the base commander or a local squadron commanding officer.
Since most of the fleet doesn't interact with the Blues, there is a stigma out there that being a Blue is all rock star and partying. There is nothing further from the truth. The Blues are Naval Aviators like any other, merely chosen to represent all the other men and women in uniform, and there's a lot of hard work and serious flying that goes into it. It's not just sipping cocktails all day long. Anyway, these Friday guest riders are an attempt to help break down that stigma by interacting with our fleet brethren. After the Friday practice flight, it's time to visit with the Make-a-Wish Foundation guests at the show, followed by the autograph line for 45 min or so, followed by taking pictures with "VIP" guests, then back to the ready room for the dreaded tape debrief.
Following the tape debrief, the Blues have an obligated social function. This social function can occur either Friday or Saturday night, at the airshow site's discretion. On the other evening there is typically an optional social function. These social functions run the entire gamut. They can be as elaborate as high powered cocktail parties with the elite members of that town or as simple as a BBQ with a bunch of kids.
The Blues have a couple rules: the mandatory social function must not charge money for attendees, must be open to children, must not include a sit-down dinner buffet is fine — goal here is to promote interaction , and the mandatory attendance time must not exceed 1 hour. As you can imagine some of these are great, some are awful, sometimes the team can't wait to leave after an hour, sometimes guys elect to stay for several hours. In all cases, there is typically an introduction of the team, pictures, autographs, a presentation of some sort etc. It can be very challenging to actually get something to eat during these functions as the draw on your attention can be overwhelming.
Repeat of Friday without the guest rider, without Make-a Wish event, and without the recruiting functions in the morning.
On Sundays, after the admin debrief, 1- 8 hop in the 7 jets and fly home to Pensacola where they then execute the tape debrief. As soon as the jets launch, Bert launches too, typically arriving back at Pensacola while are about mid-way through the tape debrief. In general, life on the road is both grueling and fun. You can see the schedule is packed.
One of my main goals was to experience the various cities we visited. I tried to do that Saturday and Sunday mornings. About once a month my girlfriend now wife would fly out and spend the weekend at the show with me, which was great. I didn't have a family at home, didn't have kids activities I was missing. I'm sure this was very challenging for the married folks. No doubt for someone married to be a successful BA, they need absolute buy-in from their spouse and family. The spouse basically runs the family Thurs-Sun and then Mon-Wed the BA is home disrupting what the spouse has been doing.
Clearly there are perks. Obviously the Blues get treated well. Like I mentioned above, there's usually a cocktail party or two and dinners each weekend. At the beginning of your tour all this attention and all these activities are great. By the end of your 2 years on the team this starts to get a little old as you get worn down. These are all great opportunities, but for the most part they are opportunities on your own time.
Being a Blue Angel: Every Kid's Guide to the Blue Angels
For me, this was part of the BA experience and I wanted to pack all my free time with as many of these opportunities that I could because I knew they were once in a lifetime, so I tried to take advantage of them. Some folks prefer private down time. One of the biggest perks I thought was the availability of golf. One of my jobs that I voluntarily took on was arranging golf each weekend. I would find out how many people were interested in playing and ask the show site to find a tee time for us.
Most of the time this resulted in a round at the finest course in town.