The US Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team visits San Francisco every October to participate in the airshow over San Francisco Bay during “Fleet Week.”

Blue Angels viewed from the Golden Gate Bridge
The Blue Angels from atop the tour bus as we cross the Golden Gate Bridge during Fleet Week 2018

Some of my friends are always anxious to see them, while others can’t stand them, citing the fact that they’re war machines and the whole exhibition is a “glorification of war,” and “we shouldn’t be admiring messengers of death and destruction.”

I have what I think is an unusual stance. As a US Navy Veteran, I’m in awe of their capabilities and I always have fun watching the air show and videos of what these things can do while, on the flip side of it, feeling my naysaying friends are right. What else are they for other than to blast the hell out of targets?

I’m going to set all the politics and opinions aside for this post, and just share some videos I’ve gotten into lately. Feel free to comment your views below.

I was doing some research on them after their October visit and found numerous “back seat ride” videos posted on YouTube by individuals who’ve gotten to tag along. A lot of these videos are edited down and have a rock music bed underscoring the action. Blah. The two videos I’ve posted below are entire rides with no music, so you can plainly hear the passenger chat with the pilot.

It seems that, whenever The Blue Angels do an airshow (or Air Force Thunderbirds, which is the second video), they choose on average three people for backseat rides. Sometimes it’s a reporter, celebrity, or pro athlete; other times it’s someone who was nominated for their humanitarian efforts and military support or just someone who won a contest.

The laypeople riding along don’t ride in the actual airshow, they go up with a single pilot who takes them to an airspace where they can safely go through airshow and combat maneuvers, usually over desert or mountains, away from civilian population.

Some people don’t handle it well and vomit and/or pass out during tight maneuvers which is why they don’t let them ride in the airshow. The pilot has to ease off the moves and sometimes bring them back down early, but most people make it through the whole thing.

Both of these videos were shot with a GoPro and make for some absolutely stunning visuals while in flight. My favorite sections are in the last ten minutes of each, when the pilots are on approach to the airstrip and do a sweeping tight turn at low altitude just before landing. Spectators on the ground get a big boom out of it, as windows rattle and car alarms go off. I’ve been under these things quite a bit in the past and you can’t help but notice them. THEY’RE LOUD!

This first video features former Milwaukee Brewers Pitcher Corey Knebel, who isn’t taking a ride with “Blue Angels,” as the video says, but rather “The Blue Angels.” I had no idea who he was prior to this video, not being a huge baseball fan, but the banter between he and the pilot make for one of my favorite ride-along videos.

This next video doesn’t have a celebrity in the back seat. I have no idea who this guy is, but he makes for one of the best passengers a fighter pilot could ask for, according to the pilot of this F-16. This time it’s the US Air Force Thunderbirds.

I’m posting these videos in fond remembrance of Ty Ellins, a retired US Navy Hornet pilot I met on Twitter, who was killed earlier this year by a drunk driver. Ty’s family still maintains his TWITTER ACCOUNT, if you’d like to follow.

Ty had a great sense of humor and was a real smart-aleck. Even though he was an F/A-18 pilot, he referred to The Blue Angels as “the dancing ponies.” 

I really miss that guy’s tweets. RIP TY.

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