May 31, 2011

Blue Angels Stand Down

As long-time readers of The Pond are aware, my apartment (known as Pond Central) is just a few miles from Duckford International Airport.  Every year, the Duckford AirFest is held there, sometime during the summer months.  The past two years, the headlining act at AirFest has been the USAF Thunderbirds.  Let's face it, as far as headliners go, that's awfully hard to beat, and I got some great pictures of them last year.

But when the organizers of AirFest announced some months ago that they had nabbed the US Navy's Blue Angels for this year's show, and that they'd be performing on June 4th and 5th, I practically wet myself with joy.  See, 2011 is the Centennial of Naval Aviation, and getting the Angels during that service-wide celebration was a monumental coup.  Then look a little closer at the dates they'd be performing: June 4th and 5th would be the 69th anniversary of the US Navy's greatest victory, the Battle of Midway.  That couldn't have worked out better if I had picked the dates myself.  I was actually thinking about attending the AirFest, instead of standing nearby, I was so stoked.  In the end, I decided to return to the frontage road I was at last year, but either way... wow!

Then Brickmuppet sent me an e-mail, and it all turned to ashes.  Commander Dave Koss had voluntarily stepped down from his position of the Blue Angels' commander, as he had led a maneuver that "had an unacceptably low minimum altitude."

This video is actually two clips; the first clip, shot on May 21st, shows how the move is supposed to be done.  The second, shot on May 22nd, shows the incorrect maneuver.  Keep an eye on #4, the trailing or "slot" plane, look how low he gets... and notice how the diamond scatters, instead of staying together like they do in the first clip.  The lead plane, Cmdr Koss', takes the diamond too low.

It's not a particularly egregious error, but enough of one that the lives of the performers were in quite a bit of danger.  When you fly like the Blue Angels, or the Thunderbirds, or the Snowbirds, or any other performance team, any mistake is enough to kill you and potentially hundreds of spectators in an instant. 

It takes a brave man to admit that he screwed up like that, and a braver one still to step down from one of the high-prestige positions in their business... voluntarily, at that.  He's been replaced by last year's commander, Captain Greg McWhirter, for the duration of the season.  Because of all this, the Blue Angels have gone into "safety stand-down" mode for the next couple of weeks, canceling airshows in Evansville, IN, a show in New Jersey over Memorial Day weekend... and their appearance at Duckford AirFest.

Darn it.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:05 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 That's too bad.  A few years ago I was in Seattle with family with plans to visit the Boeing Museum.  We were totally unaware that the Blue Angels were performing that weekend from the Boeing airstrip.  I got to stand at a chain link fence maybe 100 feet from the runway when they took off on afterburner.  We were hoping for a Fat Albert JATO take-off, but didn't get one.  Most of the actual air show was hidden from our view by intervening landscape, but I did get to see a couple of the runs where one plane would come in low over the water to join the formation by "surprise."  Seeing an F-18 flying at speed so low to the water that it's kicking up a rooster-tail maybe 1/4 of a mile away was a great way to end that day.
I do have to respect Cmdr. Koss for admitting his mistake and voluntarily stepping down.  That's got to be a painful thing to do.  Hopefully his character in choosing to do so will outweigh the reason for it going forward with his career.

Posted by: David at May 31, 2011 09:48 PM (Kn54v)


Seen them a few times at the Cleveland Air Show.  Sorry they can't show off for ya, but as you said - professionalism first!  Better a no-show than a morgue-show...Take care, amigo.

If you're ever around Cleveland on Labor Day, we have an open couch and a place to watch the show from.....

Posted by: The Old Man at June 03, 2011 07:09 AM (TcNy+)

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