2017 Event Review

San Francisco Fleet Week, October 6-8, 2017
Location: San Francisco, California
Admission: Free, paid seating offered at Marina Green
Parking:Multiple parking site costs vary
Value: Excellent
Rating out of 10: 9
 
Visitors to the RNZAF Air Tattoo

Blue Angels

2017 San Francisco Fleet Week officially kicked off on the first week of October. Prior to air show activities, there were many tents around San Francisco with souvenirs to purchase along with a variety of other events to attend all day. The Marina Green was the major area that ground activities took place at with multiple booths from vendors and air show performers.

The Fleet Week Airshow started at 12:00 pm with the U.S. Leap Frogs Parachute Team jumping for the National Anthem. Once the Anthem was finished, the team performed a full demonstration which included multiple smoke trails and formation breaks. A C-130 Hercules from the Missouri Air National Guard carried the parachuters on board to perform their jumps.

 

After the Leap Frogs performed, the U.S. Coast Guard performed a rescue demonstration which featured a C-27J Spartan based out of McClellan Airfield in Sacramento and 2 HH-65 Dolphins based out of San Francisco International Airport. The C-27J performed a couple flybys while two HH-65s hovered low above the water of the bay to simulate a rescue demonstration that would occur if someone was drowning in the ocean.

Representing the U.S. Air Force in the show was the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team based out of Shaw AFB, South Carolina. Piloting the F-16 was Maj. John "Rain" Waters. In the demonstration, Maj Waters showcased multiple capabilities of the jet with high speed passes, tight turns, and unrestricted climbs. After the solo routine, the F-16 paired up with a P-51 Mustang for the Heritage Flight. This is a rare formation flight between Air Force aircraft from past to present. The A-10 West Heritage Flight Team was also scheduled to participate but did not appear at the show due to unknown reasons

A rare performance was a flyby by the new U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon. The P-8 is an anti-submarine/surface and maritime patrol aircraft built from a Boeing 737 airframe that was introduced to service in 2013. The aircraft that flew did one special pass to the crowd before returning to Moffett Federal Airfield where it staged.

One of the aerobatic teams that performed at the show was the Canadian Forces Snowbirds who made their first appearance at Fleet Week since 2011. The Snowbirds lead by Maj. Patrick Gobeil fly 9 CT-144 Tutor trainer jets and showcased various maneuvers including formation flights, head on passes, and break maneuvers. This was the team's second to last show of the year before officially concluding their season the following weekend in Gowen, Idaho.

Another aerobatic team that flew at the show was the Patriots Jet Team who are based locally at Byron Airport. The team consists of 6 black painted L-39 Albatross Czech trainer jets with red, white, and blue smoke in their routine. They showcased multiple formation flights and solo maneuvers which featured head on passes and a tail slide. Representing United Airlines was the Boeing 747 which has performed at the show many times in the past. This was a very rare opportunity for spectators to witness the 747 airliner perform multiple passes that were very low above the water. It also marked the final Fleet Week appearance of the 747 as United Airlines is scheduled to retire the fleet in November this year. To honor the aircraft's retirement, United posted a special friendship livery to the jet. The show featured a few of the most talented solo aerobatic performers in the world. Sean D. Tucker flew his popular Oracle Challenger III biplane. This marked one of the last airshow performances by Tucker as he plans to retire from his solo career very soon. Another popular aerobatic act was Mike Wiskus flying his Lucas Oil Pitts biplane. Wiskus also flew in formation with the C-130 that carried the Leap Frogs prior the air show.

Concluding the air show as usual was the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron known as the Blue Angels, flying 6 F/A-18 Hornets. Every year, the Blue Angels have been the top headliner for Fleet Week The team, lead by Cdr. Ryan Bernacchi, showcased many different maneuvers in their demonstrations which bring the huge crowd to San Francisco every year including tight formations, head on passes, solo sneak passes, and formation breaks. After their performance, the Blue Angels returned to Oakland International Airport where they and many of the other air show performers staged for the event.
The air show portion of Fleet Week officially ended at 4:00pm. Many of the tents and exhibits at the Marina Green and across San Francisco remained opened for people to visit. Special thanks to the volunteers, sponsors, organizers, performers, and attendees for making Fleet Week 2017 a success!

Flying display participants:

United States Navy Blue Angels
Canadian Forces Snowbirds
F-16 Viper Demo Team & Heritage Flight with P-51
Patriots Jet Team - Saturday and Sunday only
U.S. Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team with C-130
P-8 Poseidon Flyby
U.S. Coast Guard Demo - C-27J Spartan & 2 HH-65 Dolphins
United Airlines 747
Sean D. Tucker Oracle Aerobatics
Mike Wiskus Lucas Oil Aerobatics

 

Report and photography by Geoffrey Arnwine for The Aviation Magazine

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