The spectacle makes
one marvel at the visual marriage of nature and technology,
a union of earth and sky, man pushing the limits of his environment.
The Blue Angels are here.
The Blue Angels, an elite flight squadron of U.S. Navy and
Marine pilots, highlighted the 2004 Blues on the Bay Air
Show held Oct.
9 and 10 at Marine Corp Base Hawai‘i. An estimated 30,000
people went to the Kane‘ohe over the weekend to see Hawai‘i’s
first full air show in nearly 20 years.
An estimated 15 million people see the angels in action every
year. In addition, the team visits about 50,000 people at schools
and hospitals and makes other group appearances.
Air shows like these are conducted to raise public awareness
of the role of the military in our society, as a recruiting tool
for men and women who might have ambitions for service, and as
a goodwill extension to the community. And, oh yeah, they’re
a lot of fun to watch. But it’s not just entertainment;
it’s more of a highlight film.
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Craig Olson, who flies the number
six plane and “opposing solo” on the team said, “Every
maneuver the Blue Angels execute is one that all Navy and Marine
Corps pilots must master as part of their training, the same
things in combat situations too,” he added.
Standing by his blue and gold F/A-18 aircraft, (official Navy
colors, just like his Blue Angel flight suit) the pilot and his
machine made quite a contrast to the green summits of the windward
side. Olson explained that one of the team’s roles was
to let the public see what the faceless thousands of military
pilots do every day. “We add some theatrics and condense
it a bit, but these are basically the aeronautical skills used
by the brave men and women that fly on a daily basis to preserve
In the air, Olson’s radio call sign is “Merlin,” a
take on his family name and that of former NFL great and current
FTD Florist’s spokesman, Merlin Olson. Commander Olson
admits his call sign is somewhat generic. Other tags are more
fitting to the true character of the pilots.
We had a guy who blew out both tires on landing,” said
Olson. “We nicknamed him “Bam-Bam.”
Olson and his fellow squad members are probably used to being
referred to as elite aviators, the “best of the best.” And
it’s true, in a sense.
Since the Blue Angels began in 1946, more than 216 demonstration
pilots have served. That’s a miniscule number compared
to the tens of thousands who have flown for their country or
supported its aviators. But team members don’t consider
themselves any better than their peers. Rather, the pilots look
at themselves as ambassadors and representative’s of their
I consider it an honor to represent the hundreds of other pilots,
as well as those out there sleeping on ships or digging foxholes,” said
Olson. “We represent the U.S. military to the rest of the
world. We show the world what kind of great men and women serve
in our armed forces. We’re the lucky ones. There are other
pilots out there who are just as good.”
So what kind of person flies some of the most combat effective
and sophisticated aircraft on the globe? Olson recommends
a strong background in math, science, and physics. A potential
have excellent vision and be in great physical shape.
Being a military pilot puts an individual under a lot of
physical and mental stress, Olson admits. But if you love
rides and such, or are just into, “pulling G’s,” a
cockpit could be waiting in your future.
My part of the team requires a lot of gravitational push.” Olson
He explains that at ground level, an individual is at “one
G.” But when flying an 18 million aircraft capable of reaching
speeds of 1,400 mph, or just below Mach II, the G-Forces increase
exponentially. During a typical show, pilots often fly at speeds
near 700 mph, just under the speed of sound.
At times, we can pull 7.5 G’s, which means, if you weigh
100 pounds, your body weighs 750 pounds in flight.”
Because of the precise movements needed during a demonstration,
the pilots don’t wear pressure suits. Instead, they memorize
the maneuvers by heart, and learn to tense their muscles at the
The job obviously offers more hazards than the standard, “9
to 5,” but no one on the team has a death wish. Even when
two planes seem to be flying directly at each other, it only
seems that way. The aviators are always in communication with
each other, in the air and on the ground.
But yes, it is close.
What we do can be dangerous,” said Olson. “We fly
aircraft at extremely high speeds, very close to one another.
There is no margin for error. But we have a contract with each
other. These maneuvers are well rehearsed, and we know which
way the other pilot will go. It’s safe, because we practice,
During the media “meet and greet” before their performance,
Olson recalled being asked by a little boy “what was the
best part about being a Blue Angel?”
Olson smiled, tapped his hand against his F/A 18 Hornet,
and said, “I told that little boy I have the best job in the