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We have so many pictures to post and so we will post several over the next few days. The ones posted today are from our trip on Monday and Tuesday to the Blue Angels (search) in Pensacola, Florida.
Yesterday was to be our day to fly with the Blue Angels but we woke to pouring rain. We were worried that we would not be able to fly with the Blue Angels but got lucky about 3 p.m. (the flight had been scheduled for 10 a.m. and we got there about 7:30 a.m. for training.) The rain stopped, the clouds faded and we took off! Because we spent so many hours waiting around for the rain to stop on Tuesday, we got to see much of the behind the scenes with the Blue Angels and thus took many pictures for you. Click on the links in the photo box above to check out my photo essays.
You will see in one group of pictures today an enlisted man named Staff Sergeant Baron Morales. When the day started, this Marine was not a staff sergeant but as the day passed, he was promoted to staff sergeant and we got to attend the ceremony (see posted pics.) The promotion to staff sergeant is huge.
The ceremony was held in the hangar where the Blue Angels had their pictures taken with fans — including us. What made it particularly memorable for Staff Sergeant Morales and us is that it was also Morales birthday. I asked to have my picture taken with him and the picture is also posted.
Everyone we spoke to on the Blue Angels teams loves his job and loves the Blue Angels. There were no complaints from any of them which brings me to my complaint... check out the pictures and you will see that inside the Blue Angels office area and work space are many, many, many leaks. We had to dodge trash baskets catching rain all over — in the halls, in the meeting areas, in offices, etc. I am stunned that our elite naval aviators are working in a space that has not one, not two, but many, many, many leaks. I can easily dodge trash cans full of water and I am happy to do so, but I can't help but want our Blue Angles — and other in all branches of the military — to work in better conditions provided it can reasonably be done.
If you say anything to the Blue Angels about the dozens of leaks they point out with very good cheer that many of their colleagues in the Navy and other branches of the military work in much poorer conditions. This is indeed true and I admire them for saying that to me... but I am a bit annoyed than we, the American people, don't try and make things better when we can. The Blue Angels busily meet and go over their precision work in a workspace that is dripping, dripping and dripping. I guess if your mind is so focused on your work you don't notice.
Why the leaks? Apparently most of them stem from Hurricane Ivan (search) that blasted through this area more than a year ago. The damage was significant and many places have not yet recovered — including the roof at the home of the Blue Angels. I am not sure what it would take to fix this roof but the longer it goes un-repaired, the bigger the bill is likely to be.
The flight with the Blue Angels was, as you might imagine, magnificent! Of course words can't adequately describe the thrill of flying in a fighter plane upside down, twirling around, etc. and speeds that included faster than the speed of sound. I assume you watched the tape of our flight that we showed last night so I won't try and describe it here. Click on the link in the video box above to watch a clip of my flight with the Blue Angels!
Some odds and ends: My pilot was Lt. John Allison. The flight surgeon for the Blue Angels is a woman — LCDR Tarah Johnson. There is not yet a woman Blue Angels pilot, but I bet there will be soon. I have flown in an F-16 with the Thunderbirds, which seemed easier even though we pulled 9 Gs to the 7.2 or 7.4 with the Blue Angels yesterday. Why? I think, but don't know, because the seat reclines more in the F-16. The Blue Angels fly F-18s and my head and neck took a pretty good beating during the time we were pulling many Gs. My neck is sore from the ride, but I would do it again tomorrow — it was THAT much of a thrill. I feel very lucky, I was never nervous flying yesterday because the pilot was so obviously skilled. His confidence was contagious.
Now for some random e-mails:
E-mail No. 1
Yeah for the Blue Angels! They are the best! Being stationed in "P-Cola" as we called it back in 1974 while my husband went through flight school there, it's a great Naval Station as you have seen and it is home to Naval Aviation and home of The Blue Angels, we would see and hear (ha-ha) the Angels all the time! It was awesome!
We try and catch them up here in Chicago when they perform in the Air and Water Show on the Lake Front, this year they were not here so we will wait till the next time! Enjoy your time with them, you lucky gal!
Thoughts and prayers still each day for Natalee. Geez, I wish something would turn up about her, its been so long now.
Keep up the great work,
Vernon Hills, IL
E-mail No. 2
I think I saw you today! I watch your show every night and enjoy it tremendously. Last night (Monday) I watched and saw you were going to fly with the Blues today. I live in Pensacola, three miles from the runways on Base and can see and hear the jets flying over our house. Sorry about the weather today. I suppose you had to fly a "low" show :-( Please come back on a sunny day and experience a "high" show!
E-mail No. 3
If you ever get the opportunity, check out a C-17. A massive airplane and fully loaded can take-off and land on any 3,000' runway and it's quiet.
E-mail No. 4
For the record: I don't give a hoot in Hell what Prince Charles and what's-her-name think about America and Americans. Just wanted you to know.
E-mail No. 5
My brother was one of the mechanics that worked on the early Blue Angels back in 1949, '50 and '51 when they were known as "Satan's Kittens." They were part of the VF-191 fighter squadron flying the F-14 Tomcat. They were stationed all around in those three years, and about three months before he was discharged, they were reorganized as the "Blue Angels" and were then stationed in Milton, FL.
Once he did any comprehensive work on "his" Tomcat, he would give it a "test drive" (flight). He had been up many times and hours with "his pilot" who taught him to fly and had enough hours to fly pretty good or good enough the pilot would let him take it up alone, but no one else knew. He almost re-upped to go to pilots school to become a pilot, but didn't. Just some old memories came to mind when I saw you go up, quite a trip huh?
E-mail No. 6
Greta, you are one tough cookie. I have not laughed so hard for years, as I did watching you in that jet. Thank you for a great show.
E-mail No. 7
Excellent! I'm so jealous. Hard to share the experience on TV, but you took a great shot at it.
Kansas City, MO
E-mail No. 8
Well I was one that complained last night about the loud noise of the plane. Tonight your show was awesome. Thank you so much. I really loved it. All the loud noise was gone so it was great. I sure wish I could have been up in one of them plane's with you.
Have a great one.
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