There are lots of really neat things you see when watching the Blue Angels perform, but what things don’t you know about the Blue Angels? Like how long are they flying as an Angel pilot? How do they communicate with one another? How do they like flying in the Grand Valley? Does the higher terrain cause them to change their routine at all? Finally, is there anything we miss in the show because of the mountainous terrain?Well I have all the answers for you!I was fortunate enough to get to meet and ask those questions of Lt Commander C.J. Simonsen, the lead solo pilot with the 2012 Blue Angels. He informed me that most pilots spend about 3 years with the Blue Angels. They start out as Angel #7 for a year. That is the voice you will hear at the air show telling you what maneuvers are being performed and which direction to look for the approaching aircraft. After the year, the other pilots vote on whether #7 will become a solo pilot or a member of the diamond formation. They then spend two years in that role before moving back to a regular unit.
During the air show you will here the “Boss”, that is Blue Angel #1, communicating vocally with some of the other members. Voice inflection has a lot to do with how hard and sharp the maneuvers will be performed, I was told. The pilots also communicate by sight when flying in the tight formations. Yes, even at 400 miles per hour.
The pilots love the scenery of western Colorado as much as we do, but it does not really cause a lot of issues for the team. The biggest factor for them is the thinner air up at our higher altitude. There are not as many air molecules to hold the planes up at slower speeds or as they are rocketing toward the earth at 450 miles per hour, so they have to make some adjustments in the altitudes at which they start their stunts. Lt Commander Simonsen said that the mountains and Bookcliffs also make it look like they are closer to the ground than they really are while in flight.
So do we miss anything that are performed at lower flatland shows? Yes, we do miss one trick. The planes do not have enough of those sightless molecules to be able stay up while performing a gear down loop while in the diamond formation at the “slow” speed of 120 miles per hour. So we only miss the one maneuver. The others that they perform are all thrilling enough, especially with Mt Garfield and the Grand Mesa as backdrops, that you will be turning your head in all directions looking for the next approach to the center of the flight-line so you will be excited all the same.
The Blue Angels will be performing the final show of the 2012 Weststar Air Show starting at 3:00 p.m. and lasting until 4:30 p.m. We also have the privilege of honoring the final remaining member of the original Blue Angels squad from 1946 as he is at the show.