Fleet Week San Francisco

Fleet Week Air ShowThis is the week the fleet meets under the Golden Gate. An astonishing site.

I’m in SF and saw the air show practice the past two days. The Blue Angels have one gag where three fly in level formation, a fourth plotting an intercept course at a right angle. A mere moment before collision, each group peels off.

From the ground, the chaser looks to come so close he could count the fillings of the pilots in front of him. From the cockpit, zipping along at a hundred-plus knots, the view must be harrowing.

There is quite a gathering of small ships—sailboats, day cruisers, and the like—that camp out in the bay. Mean looking Coast Guard vessels corral them into the center, where the Blue Angels take turns buzzing them. I’d swear they are so low that the blowback ruffles the sails.

The Canadian Snowbirds are also here. No, not the geriatrics who migrate each November to Florida to escape the white of the Great White North, and who must return one day less than six months later lest they lose their health insurance. I mean the pilots from the Canadian Military. They have pretty, friendly, polite looking red-and-white planes. And who are friendlier than Canadians?

Other spectacles are scheduled. The Coast Guard will drop a sailor, probably a marine, into the drink, after which, if all goes off without a hitch, the marine will be rescued by a man in a wet suit dropped into the sea from a helicopter. If there is a hitch; well, there are plenty of marines.

United Airlines will buzz the town with a 747. The rumors about them dropping wee bags of peanuts from the cargo hold are surely false.

Capping the show will be a lone USAF F-15 Strike Eagle. It only takes one, folks. This is the Air Force we’re talking about, not the Navy, which deals in bulk.

There will be plenty of ship tours, too. The storied USS Bonhomme Richard is one of them, the third naval ship of the same name. Advice: don’t remind the current sailors that first Richard sunk in battle. She still lay in waters off England. It is a sore point.

The Marine band will serenade Union Square, an area of town not coincidentally thick with pubs. And don’t forget parades.

The fog is already lifting. See you by the bay.


  1. Speed

    From the cockpit, zipping along at a hundred-plus knots …

    “Plus” being a large number. Approach speed in an F/A-18 is in the neighborhood of 140 knots. Most of the show is flown faster. Much faster.

    I have had the good fortune to have seen so many air shows that I don’t watch the airplanes any more. On the other hand, a couple of fighters (F/A-18, F-14, F-15, F-22) flying close by with afterburners lit make my soft tissues shake and my eyes water.

  2. I wonder how many years hence it will be before fleet week in SF consists of a “parade” of just three new navy ships and five navy drones being operated from an aircraft carrier several hundred miles off of San Diego?

  3. JEM

    That pic looks like a bunch of L-39s or something, it’s certainly not Navy F-18s nor the Snowbird CT-114s.

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