Is there a better emblem of American aviation dominance--both in technology and airmanship--than the U. S. Navy Blue Angels flying the mighty F/A-18 Hornet? The pride of the American side is captured in these spectacular photos taken during their annual visit to the U. S. Naval Academy for graduation ceremonies in Annapolis, Maryland.
Remarkably, photographer Sonia A. Austin snapped these pictures from a wildly rocking boat on turbulent Severn River waters, just at the edge of the FAA-mandated showline.
Since the mid-eighties, spectators in watercraft may not position themselves directly below the performance. Those of you who remember the mishap involving the Italian team at Ramstein Airbase in Germany a few years back will not wonder why the FAA is so strict about prohibiting aerobatic maneuvers over crowds (FAR 91.303 b).
Landing lights ablaze, the classic four-ship diamond formation crosses the Severn River Bridge in the "down and dirty" landing configuration for a carrier-approach pass. Everything hangs out: slats, flaps, gear and hook. (BA006)
Also shown crossing the bridge is the tightly packed Blue Angel six-plane delta. Remember, the Blue's burden is a scant thirty-six inches wing-tip-to-canopy separation. Wow! (BA005)
Check out the line-abreast loop. You aerobatic pilots out there know just how difficult this maneuver is. Man, are they good! (BA007)
And note that in the beautiful six-plane, delta-formation pass ship number seven is flying slot instead of number six. Mechanical problems grounded number six on this particular day. What a gorgeous sight. See it every day on your office or den wall! (BA004)