2012 Articles

JAN 11 2013
Airshows >> USA: San Francisco Fleet Week - Review

Without doubt San Francisco Fleet Week's biggest attraction is the venue, as it is set against the backdrop of Alcatraz, Angel Island, Sausalito and the fabulous Golden Gate Bridge. Can there be a better venue for an airshow?! The only problem is finding a space to watch the action, as the crowd line effectively runs from close to the Golden Gate Bridge all the way along the waterfront past Fisherman's Wharf. This is a distance of several miles, parts of it are obstructed by buildings, and there are thousands of spectators.

This yearís event was spread over five days, with flying displays on three of those days, a parade of ships on the Saturday and the added bonus of the America's Cup sailing races being held over the same weekend. On most days the sailing started once the flying finished, but Sunday's flying display was interrupted by the final race, which saw the British boat, skippered by Olympic medal winner Ben Ainslie, come second overall.

The parade of ships was led by a fire boat and featured a number of US and Canadian warships, plus the SS Jeremiah O'Brien. This is a WWII Liberty ship which is normally tied up alongside at Fishermanís Wharf and is open to the public as a visitor attraction. The Bay was actually full of watercraft of every conceivable shape and size, with an area kept clear for the ships to steam through, and also for the flying displays. This did mean however that the displays were some way from the crowd and, as some of the performers made some very low passes, this made viewing challenging for those not in the front row.

The airshow kicked off with a display by a US Coast Guard HH-65 Dauphin, and on the Saturday this was followed by a few flypasts by a B-2A Spirit from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base. Next up was a short US Marine Corps demonstration consisting of a flypast by an MV-22B Osprey from VMM-166 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and two passes by a pair of AV-8B Harrier IIs from VMA-211 at MCAS Yuma. A number of well known acts, seen at most of the shows in the area, performed with Tim Weber, Sean D Tucker and Mike Wiskus all putting on their usual high energy routines. Local guy Greg Collyer (an Air Traffic Controller at nearby Oakland) was also on hand in his former Canadian CT-133 "Ace Maker".

Further military performers consisted of the US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet, the Royal Canadian Air Forces CF-188A Hornet and the USAFs F-22A Raptor, performing one of its few displays this year. After its display the Raptor teamed up with an F-16C from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base and a P-51D Mustang for the Heritage Flight. The Patriots Jet Team put on their usual impressive display with their six L-39s, but with a twist. Once they had finished a surprise addition was a single sneak pass by a Boeing 727, sponsored by Fry's Electronics, one of the Patriots' main sponsors. This wasn't the only large jet in the display as arguably the most impressive sight was of a United Airlines Boeing 747-400 coming over the Golden Gate Bridge and flying low over the Bay. It made a total of three passes, the first one in a clean configuration, the second in the landing configuration and then a further clean pass.

Not surprisingly the headline act, who closed the show, were the US Navy's Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels and they were preceeded by their warm up act, their C-130 Hercules "Fat Albert", which performed a few low, fast passes. One of the Blues signature pieces is the solo sneak pass, which looks particularly impressive low (very low!) over the water!

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