By E. Isaac Lee
Two pilots from the famous U.S. Navy “Blue Angels” squadron arrived at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos on Friday to perform a “pre-season site visit” for the Great Pacific Air Show.
Blue Angels pilots Lts. Julius Bratton and Kaitlin Forster flew in from El Centro Naval Air facility, greeting reporters with a few maneuvers before landing at the Joint Forces Training Base to meet with the press. Staff representing the Great Pacific Air Show, including Airshow Director Kevin Elliot, were also present.
This year marks the Blue Angels’ 75th year as a flight demonstration team. The Angels will be introducing two new planes as part of their lineup: The C-130 J Super Hercules, and the F/A-18 Super Hornets.
While the Angels will be flying in events across the United States, their presence in California is in preparation for the Great Pacific Air Show, now scheduled for Oct. 1-3 at Huntington Beach.
“We get a lay of the land, figure out where everything is, talk with the air show crew, everybody that supports the air show, and make sure that when the team arrives that no detail has been missed,” said Lt. Bratton.
Within the Blue Angels, Lt. Bratton serves as Blue Angel Number Seven and as the event narrator. The narrator, he said, is usually found on the ground and is charged with announcing the Angels’ maneuvers and directing the crowd’s attention towards the planes.
Forster, on the other hand, serves as Blue Angel Number Eight and as the Event Coordinator. Her duties involve overseeing events, helping to publicize them, and, as of recently, formatting them to accommodate current health and safety standards.
In preparation for the air show and other events held across the country, the Angels have undergone a rigorous training regimen.
“We work out about six days a week. And after flying two to three flights a day out here winter training (at) El Centro, we’ll hit the gym on base and just maintain that strength in order to combat the G forces,” said Lt. Bratton.
Flights are “typically about 45 minutes to an hour apiece. So, three hours of flying time a day, and then add a brief and debrief, and a little bit of time for food in between,” he added.
As for the air show itself, Lt. Forster said to expect a “bigger and louder show,” due to the Super Hornet’s size and speed. No new maneuvers will be added to the Blue Angels’ repertoire.
Director Elliot states that the performers and their new equipment will attract a larger audience than the previous air show. OC Breeze recorded over two million attendees to the 2019 Great Pacific Air Show.
“We’re kind of tracking all of the current health guidelines and obviously it’s a little hard to predict what those are going to be 10 months out from now. But we will have a robust safety plan,” said Elliot.
He added that the show would feature increased hand washing stations, masks for attendees, social-distancing measures, and temperature screening. Further safety information will be available on their website, pacificairshow.com.
Alongside the Blue Angels, the 2021 Great Pacific Air Show will feature the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds, U.S. Army Golden Knights, U.S. Air Force ACC F-35 Demo Team, and the U.S. Marine Corps V-22 Osprey Demo Team. Other civilian and military performers will be announced on the event website.
“We can’t wait to do it,” said Lt. Bratton. “You can’t beat that view. Flying a jet out over the ocean and looking at the beach is a perspective that few get to see, and we’re grateful to have that opportunity,” he said.