This fine book, which has more history than insider stuff, is the closest thing I could find in book form (especially the glorious chapter 9: “Behind the Scenes with the Blue Angels,” which is like candy to a baby).
The thing is: There is no shortage of videos about the Blue Angels, and that makes perfect sense. The drama is really in the visual. And I’ll be the first to confess that I saw every last one of those DVDs that I could get my hands on, before ever thinking to seek out a book.
In fact, let’s pause—shall we?—for a brief video interruption:
The thing is, I really love learning how organizations actually operate (and, yes, the unusual things only insiders usually know), and while the DVDs (particularly Blue Angels: A Year in the Life, which I had to buy as a random midsummer gift to myself) provide some of that stuff, I really crave a book that tells the whole story, including all the weird little unexpected things.
Stuff like this (which I picked up from a video made for children!): Each Blue Angels pilot has his own hand signal that he does to the other members of the crew while taxiing out. (I love this!)
For a look at this sort of action, check out minutes 1:00 – 2:44 in this video of the 2009 team:
Not that I spend hours trolling for this stuff on YouTube or anything. Not when I really should be weeding the garden or varnishing the door. Not that at all.)
So here’s the stuff I want to know: When do the pilots eat? What do they eat? What are the actual weight-lifting exercises they do to compensate for not wearing a g suit? When they fly back to Pensacola after a show, does Boss take off first? Do they fly miles—or feet—apart when they’re traveling to and from an air show? How do the two solo pilots communicate during a show? I want details!!
All of that aside… This book beautifully does exactly what it says it will do: it covers the first 50 years of the Blue Angels, including the aircraft they’ve flown over the years, and the changes in the air show due to changes in the capabilities of the aircraft. It also includes recollections, in their own words, by previous Blue Angels pilots.
This book also provides some fabulous details from the pilots about flying in tight formation, including this, from Cdr. Ed Holley (Boss, 1957-1958), about flying the F11F Tiger in the #1 position: “When the fourth plane comes into the slot, he pushes your nose over requiring you to trim back to hold him in position. Then the wingmen are moving in and holding tight formation. It is a locked formation.” (p. 57)
OK. So now don’t you just want to hum?
Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the credo for the Blue Angels as stated by their legendary first Flight Leader, Lcdr. Butch Voris, can be seen in their demonstrations even today: “Get it up, get it on, get it down.” (Meaning: do a fast, tight show, without any maneuvers repeated; and leave them wanting more)
I want more.