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Fleet Week is back. Blue angels too

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Fleet Week returns this year after the coronavirus pandemic closed last October’s event. The waterfront air show, which kicks off next Friday, will feature demonstrations by the Coast Guard, the Navy parachute team and the Red Bull helicopter, but its crowning achievement has long been a performance at the top. Flow of the world famous flight of the Blue Angels. team.

In many ways, the return of Fleet Week signals a path to recovery after a turbulent year for the aviation industry. Air shows, business travel, manufacturing and a myriad of aviation jobs were all suddenly brought to a halt as the pandemic swept the country.

“We are now in the midst of the most serious crisis the aerospace industry has ever known,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus. in a press release last year.

But for Major Rick Rose, pilot of the C-130J of the Blue Angels, affectionately nicknamed “Fat Albert”, for its weight of multi-engine, the return of the air show is personal. Originally from Napa, Rose considers Fleet Week San Francisco to be her home show. It is also the place where he was first inspired to pursue a career as a pilot in the United States Marine Corps.

Major Rick Rose, pilot of the Blue Angels C-130J, affectionately known as “Fat Albert”. (Courtesy of the US Navy Blue Angels)

“Our family would try to find the tallest parking structure in downtown San Francisco and, you know, park somewhere at the top and watch the whole demo,” he said. “I was addicted back then.”

Rose joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Sacramento State in 2007 and became a Blue Angel in 2019. He has completed numerous missions around the world, including two tours to the Middle East and one deployment with the VMGR-152 “Sumos” in Iwakuni, Japan. .

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the US Navy Marines Blue Angels, and Rose will perform the first C-130 demonstration since 2018 with an all-new aircraft. “Having a year without air shows, we all want to go back and do it,” he said.

The Examiner spoke to Rose about his career, how the pandemic has changed the Blues’ mission, and what this year’s return to San Francisco Fleet Week means to him.

You grew up watching the Blue Angels with your father, a former Navy pilot. What does it mean now that you take part in this year’s air show?

It’s pretty crazy to think, you know, how many times I’ve waited and watched the Blue Angels play over the bay, and then being able to do it… It’s kinda surreal.

You chose to take your wings long before you joined the Blue Angels. Why did you want to fly a particular C-130?

I wanted to switch to the multi-engine, which included C-130s for the Marine Corps, depending on the mission you’re doing with that plane. It is an essential asset for the Marine Corps. We use it for everything – it does so many different missions around the world. You travel, you travel a lot, and you see corners of the world that you never thought you would see.

The blue angels ??  Lockheed Martin C-130 J, known as ?? Fat Albert. ??  (Courtesy of the US Navy Blue Angels)

The Lockheed Martin C-130 J of the Blue Angels, known as the “Fat Albert”. (Courtesy of the US Navy Blue Angels)

What makes the Lockheed Martin C-130 J of the Marine Corps special?

Every day is different when you jump on this plane. I could do aerial refueling, fuel helicopters or jets, and also, what we call aerial delivery, which is like throwing paratroopers or whatever kind of supplies to Marines on the ground that are isolated. .

We also demonstrate our assault landing characteristic, so that we can take off a very short distance and land a very short distance. I landed in very austere environments, in very short landing zones, dirt runways. It’s a tank. He really can do anything.

Note, my wife is a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps, and I hope that at some point I will have the opportunity to refuel her. It would be quite funny.

The pandemic has hit the aviation industry particularly hard. What has been the impact of the pandemic on you and the Blue Angels team?

We kind of thought, “How are we going to finish our mission now if we don’t do air shows?” “

We had to get creative in some ways, but we made it work. And that’s kind of who we are with the Navy and the Marine Corps, it’s hey, adapt and overcome. You are faced with adversity, this is how you get stronger and this is what it is about.

The Blue Angels Flight Team flies near the Golden Gate Bridge during the Fleet Week Air Show near Marina Green on Friday October 11, 2019 (Kevin N. Hume / SF Examiner)

The Blue Angels Flight Team flies near the Golden Gate Bridge during the Fleet Week Air Show near Marina Green on Friday October 11, 2019 (Kevin N. Hume / SF Examiner)

During the pandemic, the Blue Angels took to the skies in Operation American Strong, paying homage to frontline healthcare workers as they flew over a number of major US cities. Tell me more about it.

The Operation America Strong flyovers – it was pretty cool to participate because it’s really the first time we’ve done something like this. Much work went into getting six jets over the country without landing anywhere and coordinating all the support needed for overflights of major cities to greet healthcare workers. That’s a bit of how we stayed engaged.

You became a Blue Angel in 2019. Is this everything you expected?

What I thought it took to be a blue angel, multiply it by ten. It is very rewarding but difficult work. And it’s difficult for a reason. You are always looking for perfection. You will never really achieve perfection. But you’ll be damn close.

This interview has been edited for more space and clarity.


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