Home » Blue Angels Schedule » Serving — and seeing — the country at 400 mph
Blue Angels Schedule

Serving — and seeing — the country at 400 mph

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Until this week, Blue Angels pilot Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, 33, had never been to Lincoln. But between performing and practicing, he'll spend up to six hours above the city.
Until this week, Blue Angels pilot Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, 33, had never been to Lincoln. But between performing and practicing, he’ll spend up to six hours above the city.
An F-22 Raptor flies low over the Blue Angels' F/A-18 Hornets as it arrives for the Guardians of Freedom Air Show on Thursday.
An F-22 Raptor flies low over the Blue Angels’ F/A-18 Hornets as it arrives for the Guardians of Freedom Air Show on Thursday.
Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, 33, will fly in the No. 2 position with the Blue Angels when they perform Saturday and Sunday above Lincoln.
Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, 33, will fly in the No. 2 position with the Blue Angels when they perform Saturday and Sunday above Lincoln.

The first time he performed for the Blue Angels, Matt Suyderhoud was anxious.

The other pilots would judge him. And with good reason.

“It’s part of the job,” he said. “If I’m nervous or uncomfortable doing this, then I probably don’t want to be a Blue Angel.”

But Lt. Suyderhoud took a breath and told his joke anyway — one of the unofficial steps in the long, competitive process of joining the U.S. Navy’s elite air show squad.

The practice makes sense for potential Blue Angels, he said: Your ability to tell a joke shows how you perform under pressure, how you handle yourself in front of a crowd.

He doesn’t remember his first joke, the year he didn’t make the team, or the second, the year he did. He does remember they were clean, he said.

The 33-year-old is in his second year with the squadron, which landed in Lincoln this week to perform at the Guardians of Freedom Air Show.

It’s the first visit to Nebraska for the Honolulu native, who grew up wanting to fly for a living after seeing the Blue Angels perform when he was 3. He flew the first time when he was 16, and he and his twin brother, Johan, went on to study aviation at Saint Louis University.

They had intended to be commercial pilots, but their plans changed after Sept. 11, 2001. They started talking about joining the military, and they gravitated toward the Navy.

“We liked the thought of flying jets off aircraft carriers,” he said.

The brothers both became F/A-18 pilots. And they both became Blue Angels finalists the first year they tried, although neither was selected. Then his brother joined the SEALs program, and Suyderhoud applied again.

It’s a tough team to make. This weekend alone, there could be 15 candidates in Lincoln, watching the team perform, getting to know the pilots — and getting evaluated by them. The Blue Angels will further narrow the field, but there will still be twice as many finalists as there are open positions.

It’s also a grueling assignment. The Blue Angels are based in Pensacola, Florida, but they spend about 300 days a year away from home, Suyderhoud said, practicing in California during the winter and performing weekly from March to November.

They were in North Carolina last week. They’ll be in St. Louis next week.

But this week, Lincoln. And between practicing and performing, they’ll spend up to six hours above the city, starting with scouting missions.

They arrive at each city with a basic layout of the area, but they fly circle maneuvers to memorize the landmarks — gas stations, billboards, even stoplights and stop signs — that will help them keep their bearings at 400 mph.

They do have down time. The pilots ate at Single Barrel after landing in Lincoln on Wednesday, although they didn’t wear their flight suits or let the staff know they were the Blue Angels.

“It’s just nice to go out and visit the towns,” Suyderhoud said.

When the season is over — after a mid-November homecoming performance in Pensacola — he’ll return to normal duty. His two-year gig with the Blue Angels won’t bring him special treatment.

He’ll just be a regular fighter pilot, he said.

“This is a job where we showcase what all the other pilots in the fleet do.”

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: