More than 75,000 in attendance at Naval Base Ventura County
Flying wingtip to wingtip, a signature maneuver for the pilots of the U.S. Navy’s famed Blue Angels, is an exhilarating experience but one that demands “an incredible amount of concentration,” a member of the flight demonstration team said.
As crowds cheered below, the Blue Angels performed their virtuoso aerial displays as the highlight of the air show at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu this past weekend.
Thousands turned out to watch the Blue Angels team of five F/A-18 Hornets perform a series of daring maneuvers, including flying upside down and in tight formations.
“ We’re literally inches apart,” Blue Angels pilot Lt. Matt Suyderhoud said at a press preview last Friday, a day before the weekend air show Sept. 26 and 27.
IT OUT—The Navy’sflight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels,
perform their Delta Breakout maneuver during the Point Mugu Airshow last
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers
“It’s a lot of fun, but it takes an incredible amount of concentration.
“If you miss even one radio call or if you have one minor bobble in a maneuver, that has a ripple effect down the road to other maneuvers. So you’re really making sure you’re not missing any of those little details.”
Last weekend’s air show at the naval installation, the first held at Point Mugu in five years, drew more than 75,000 people.
Along with the Blue Angels, the show featured the Breitling Jet Team, a professional civilian flight team; stunt pilot Sean Tucker of Team Oracle; displays by the CAF California Warbirds, which preserves World War II aircraft; and the Strategic Army Command Parachute Team.
Although the F/A-18s flown by the Blue Angels are put under a lot of stress at each show, or “demo” as the pilots call them, the planes are among the oldest in the Navy’s fleet of jets, Suyderhoud said.
They’re maintained by a crew of specially trained mechanics, who put the jets through their paces before pilots climb into the cockpit.
“Most of these jets are very, very old,” Suyderhoud said. “We get them at the end of their service. They can’t be used on aircraft carriers any more, but they’re still great jets.”
Suyderhoud started flying gliders in his native Hawaii at age 16. He and his brother had hoped to become commercial pilots, but then the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. Both brothers immediately enlisted in the Navy, the lieutenant said.
To be a part of the Blue Angels, pilots must travel with the team as it performs around the country and overseas. They typically spend about 300 days out of the year going from show to show, Suyderhoud said.
“It can be tough, especially if you have a family. Fortunately, I’m a single guy,” he said.
Before every show, the Blue Angels pilots make guest appearances at schools and other venues. Next to actual flying, that’s the part of his job Suyderhoud likes best, he said.
“One of the most rewarding parts of my job is talking to kids of all ages,” said Suyderhoud. “We go to schools not to recruit but to inspire.
“We want to inspire kids to be the best doctors they can be or the best race car drivers or whatever their dream happens to be.
“If I can inspire just one student, it’s mission accomplished.”