While you were looking up at the aerobatic performers during the NAS Patuxent River 2018 Air Expo, did you ever wonder if they were looking back at you?
Blue Angels #5 pilot, Lead Solo Lt. Tyler Davies, says that during certain maneuvers, he’s actually able to see faces in the crowd.
“We can see because we’re so low to the ground, about 200 feet, and even though we’re going about four to five hundred knots, I can still see the smiles in the crowd,” Davies said. “I can see kids jumping up and down; I see their excitement. I can see all of that. Anytime I climb into my cockpit and look out onto the smiling faces, I turn right back into a kid in a candy store.”
Davies jokes about still having to wear a onesie to work; and he says he can remember the first time he saw the Blue Angels perform.
“I saw them once and it was a cool thing for me as a kid,” he said. “I’ve always kind of grown up doing crazy stuff. I used to race motorcycles and all these other things and was kind of an adrenaline junkie from all that stuff.”
At the time, however, Davies didn’t give being a Blue Angels pilot a second thought, figuring it was an unattainable goal, an impossibility to be “that guy.”
“But as my career was being built,” he noted, “well, I made it this far, then I made it that far; so why stop there?”
That’s one of the components of being a Blue Angel that now seems to mean a lot to Davies — talking to kids at the crowd line after a performance or visiting students in high schools as part of the team’s community outreach program.
“We’re not solely about recruitment, we’re also about inspiring people to go do something they don’t think is possible, whether it’s to become a doctor, engineer or whatever. I’ve talked to kids all across the country and said, ‘You know what? No matter what you think you can’t do, you actually can,’ The only person who can tell you that you can’t do it is you.”
Davies speaks from experience. Having joined the Navy right out of high school, he worked toward a degree in the evenings and was selected for an officer program after eight years in the military.
“On my second deployment, I looked up there and saw men and women launching off the front end of the boat and I asked the question, ‘Why can’t I do that,’” he noted. “They told me I couldn’t because I was enlisted, but I didn’t take no for an answer. Then they told me I’d have to do this, this and this. I said, okay; and I just went and did it. And it was super exciting for me. The first time you ever fly, you’re at the controls and it’s the most free you’ll ever feel.”
Davies explained that, like the teams before them, the 2018 Blue Angels will never really get the full grasp of how much influence they’ve had throughout the season.
“We hope that maybe one day in the future, somebody will come up to us and say, ‘Hey, you don’t know who I am but I met you when I was 6 years old and you inspired me to do what I’m doing today, so I just wanted to say thank you,’” he said. “That’s the inspiration piece of what we represent. Nobody cares who Tyler is, it’s about what Blue Angel #5 represents, or what the maintainers represent, or what the team represents.”