|The Blue Angels fly past the Golden Gate Bridge last year.|
Blue Angels are coming. Thunder and spectacle. A handful of outraged
citizens. Cowering dogs. Love them or loathe them, you can’t ignore
Close up with the team, you sense an uncanny
rationale in the Blues’ attitude to their work. The reward is the
delight in doing something difficult, doing it well, representing a
proud group, being elite.
With formation aerobatics, such as those the Blues
have demonstrated for more than 65 years, the near impossible is made to
look routine. Yet no public authority sanctioning air shows, including
the Federal Aviation Administration, would permit such flying if it were
not performed safely and professionally.
It’s simple. Spend 10 years learning to fly a Navy
jet, at a level of controlled aggression hinting of an overconfident
sociopath. Strap on a 30,000-pound flying device daily in the Blues’
90-day winter training and for the next 200-plus days. Operate simple
controls with manual dexterity and precise timing. Follow routines
practiced hundreds of times.
Not much to it, if you can concentrate relentlessly,
for that eternal show hour, instants spinning out agonizingly, all the
complex systems of that 15-ton piece of living sculpture functioning as
though your every nerve-end extended into the furthest plate and rivet,
nut and bolt.
Look beyond the three-dimensional aerial ballet and
see the men and machines as testing the limits of sporting skill,
satisfying the urgent human drive to excel. These are not competitors
but a team whose existence depends on every member. They must know and
trust implicitly both their own and each others’ skills, wills,
intellects and emotions.
So, why? It’s complex, especially for professional
pilots working at the ragged edge of what can be done consistently. You
can’t fake it, paint it on or wear it. Flying’s an honest trade: Do it
properly, put your skills on the line, every time, and live. For honest
men (there have been no female Blues), that’s a worthy calling.
Appreciative audiences sense raw truth.
As the unyielding earth waits patiently, but seconds
away, the Blues weave their mystical patterns in air, to standards set
man for man, beyond sight of mere mortals. They’re dancing on the rim of
eternity, linked by the intellect, will, reflexes and training of six
skilled and courageous men. As Emerson put it, “a great part of courage
is the courage of having done the thing before.”
Here’s the Blue Angels flight schedule for next week:
Oct. 8, noon to 4 p.m., practice
Oct. 9, 10 and 11, 3 p.m., air show