The Navy’s Blue Angels arrived on Oahu at 350 to 450 miles per hour yesterday afternoon, flying in formation over the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay and peeling away in knife-edge turns before touching down.
Seven of the twin-engine blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets are in Hawaii for this weekend’s air show, which is expected to draw 150,000 people.
Six single-seat Hornets will be performing, while the seventh, a two-seater, is reserved for public relations purposes.
The Blue Angels pilots flew for 5 1/2 hours from Travis Air Force Base in California, accompanied by two tankers that refueled each jet 10 times.
"There’s no place like this on earth, so coming in, seeing the islands, it’s just amazing," said Navy Capt. Greg McWherter, commanding officer and flight leader for the Blue Angels.
"It’s really great for the Blue Angels to get out to Hawaii," McWherter said. The majority of the team’s performances are on the mainland.
The pilots will practice tomorrow and fly again on Friday in a dress rehearsal — open to military families, law enforcement personnel and schoolchildren — in preparation for Saturday and Sunday’s public shows.
KANEOHE BAY AIRSHOW
» Gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
» Admission is free; however, there is a charge for grandstand box seats and chalet seating, available at kaneohebayairshow.com.
» Enter through the H-3 gate; 46 shuttles run all day between parking areas and the air show site.
» The city bus system runs two routes close to the air show: Route 70 (which provides access onto the base) and Route 56 (which comes near the base at Aikahi Park).
» Alcoholic beverages, ice chests or coolers, glass containers, pets other than service animals, bicycles, scooters and skateboards are prohibited.
» Children’s wagons (nonmotorized), standard backpacks, food and beverages (nonalcoholic), and folding chairs and lawn chairs are permitted.
» Food is available, and the air show features a variety of flying displays and static displays ranging from jets to helicopters, transport craft to classic military aircraft.
» For more information: www.mcbh.usmc.mil/Airshow
The fastest maneuver the Blue Angels perform is the "sneak pass" at about 700 mph, or just under Mach 1.
Part of that practice will be identifying visual checkpoints off the Marine Corps base. The jets loop around Kaneohe with the Koolau Range providing a backdrop.
"That’s what makes this job exciting. … No two shows are the same," said McWherter, who has been in the Navy for 20 years. "We were flying in downtown Chicago three weeks ago. You come to a place like this and there are just different challenges. I think the wind will make it a bit of a challenge, especially as we come from the mountains to the ocean. There’s always a transition area that makes it a little bit bumpy. We’ll see some turbulence."
McWherter said three other pilots will be flying 12 inches to a few feet off his wings and tail, and they’ll be following his every cue.
"That’s why we practice so much, because we fly relatively close together and because we’re doing extremely dynamic maneuvers," he said. "Everything that I say (on the radio), I have to do exactly what I say, and everything I tell them to do, they have to do exactly what I do."
The Blue Angels wowed those present even with a single pass yesterday.
"We’re really stoked to be front-row to watch them," said Manarii Gauthier, 28, one of six Tahitian dancers with Ia Ora o Tahiti Nui performing at the arrival. "We all think it is really awesome what they manage to do up there. The noise is superloud with how they maneuver so quickly."