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Fleet Week Airshow: Red, white, and blue painted over San Francisco

The+Patriot+Jet+Team+colored+the+skies+over+San+Francisco+in+red%2C+white%2C+and+blue%2C+but+to+also+honor+Dianne+Feinstein.+
Shimon Arai
The Patriot Jet Team colored the skies over San Francisco in red, white, and blue, but to also honor Dianne Feinstein.

The colors of red, white, and blue, a symbol of patriotism, unfurled across the vast canvas of the bay’s skies. Throughout San Francisco, the ground shook as the Blue Angels, painted yellow and dark blue, thundered above. This is Fleet Week.

Through Oct. 7-8, the annual military Fleet Week airshow was hosted over the San Francisco Bay, near Marina Park. The airshow showcased aircraft agility through maneuvers and revealed the Armed Forces’ latest tech and arsenal.

“We have relationships with all branches of service. And they love to come to shows that we put on. So when we had our reception last evening, it was extremely well attended,” said the Fleet Week organizer Jim Breen.

The airshow, sponsored by United Airlines, had a rapid schedule, first with the demonstrations of the parachute team, followed by a Boeing 777 low altitude flyby, demonstrations of the Coast Guard helicopters, Patriot Jet Team, Memorial Squadron, T-33, T-6, F35B, Boeing 777, again, and the Blue Angels team. 

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“It’s called the Marina Green Festival there. We have interactive displays, all the military displays, fire department, police department, emergency services. All will collect there at Marina Green and so you get a real immersion,” said Breen

Parachuting from the Fat Albert

Not only are the event organizers on standby on the ground but so is Navy Parachute Team Public Affairs Petty Officer 2nd Class MaqQueon Tramble

The Navy Parachute Team, composed of elite parachuting sailors, executed stunning descents from the ‘Fat Albert’ and other aircraft. While airborne, the team performed aerial stunts and acrobatics, then swiftly cleaned up after landing. 

The Fat Albert, another aircraft of the Blue Angels, flies near Marina Park in the direction of the bay. (Shimon Arai)

“My favorite part of Fleet Week is actually getting to come out and interact with the fans and interact with all the spectators and everybody because it’s every day for us but it’s not always every day for someone who comes out to watch,” said Tramble

While the team had jumped before, it was a rare spectacle for the audience to witness. Thus, the team readied themselves to create a special moment for the crowd.

“[The team] makes it a very apparent point to make sure that everybody here is comfortable. And that they have a great time and that we put on a great show for them,” said Tramble.

Landing at Marina Park, the team took the unique chance to engage with the crowd and gather their reactions.

“I love seeing everybody’s faces. And some of the guys have said that the reactions from the crowd are the best parts [and] it makes their day. I think the reason why the Parachute Team is such a big part of it is because you guys get to see us after we jump,” said Tramble

However, Tramble suggests that the pilots flying the aircraft from which the team parachutes should also receive recognition.

“[I wish] that there’ll be a little bit more opportunities to be able to see like the pilots, who are the ones dropping us off or the ones who are flying for the Blue Angels, because you see the machines but you don’t get to see the person behind the machine,” said Tramble.

Hovering above the Bay

Like the jets that shook the ground that take, while in the air, pilots like the US Marine Corps F-35B pilot Major Michael Frazer get to view the crowd from an elevated angle. 

“When you’re flying over the bay, you can see everybody you can look down you can see people, people waving people, like saluting, people with their cameras pointed up at you, every once in a while, take my hand off the throttle, and I’ll give them a wave just in case somebody has a super good camera,” said Frazer

Since the F35-B is equipped with a multitude of features, for Frazer, not only was seeing the crowd fun but so was the highlight of demonstrating his maneuvers. 

The F-35B flies supersonic into the air, transitioning the event from formation flying to exotic maneuvers. (Shimon Arai)

“The maneuvers themselves are all cool, but some of the most fun are the transitions from one maneuver to another. So as I kind of pitch away from the crowd, and I do a 270 degrees, we call it a Thunderbird roll or tuck under roll, and kind of reposition back, I’m looking at all the boats and stuff over the bay,” said Frazer

The F35-B also has the capability to hover by entering into the Vertical Take-Off and Landing mode. Many were in awe of this capability, but Frazer also had some fun while performing.

“I was transitioning into STOVL (Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing) and opening all the doors. There was a little cruise ship, and I was perfectly lined up with the wake of it. So I leveled my wings and opened up all the STOVL doors right as I flew over it. It’s cool to have that flexibility with the show to be able to do things like that,” said Frazer

Legacy of the Airshow

For the show, the military deployed a truck convoy, showcased an unmanned ground vehicle, and organized festive games. Whether a spectator was an adult or a kid, the airshow and servicemen inspired them. 

“It’s the moments where we come back to a place that we’ve already been to. They are like, ‘I want to do this next time,’ ‘I want to be able to jump out of planes.’ It’s nice seeing us give a little bit back and maybe shape somebody’s future and see where they go from there,” said Tramble

This story was originally published on Amador ValleyToday on October 18, 2023.