by Amy Crocker
No, the sky is not falling on your head. And no, the wrath of Thor is not upon us. The great booms echoing in the San Francisco sky come not from the vengeful thunder god, but rather from Blue Angels. The Navy flight demonstration team will be capping off a five-week west coast tour with two air shows over San Francisco bay this weekend. They have been practicing their loops, dives and tandem swirls since their arrival on Tuesday as part of Fleet Week. Aside from practices, the official show lasts 40 minutes, or about how long it takes a 1986 Boeing F/A-18 Hornet to run out of gas. The choreography hasn’t changed much since the Blue Angels formed in 1946, yet it remains consistently controversial.
Lt. Mark Swinger is in his second year as a Blue Angel, one of six pilots in the show. SFist spoke with him about banning the Blue Angels, airplane fuel efficiency, getting rejected for seasonal allergies, and why he could never be an astronaut.
SFist: What does San Francisco look like from upside down in a Blue Angel plane?
Lt. Mark Swinger: It’s awesome from the air. I mean, it’s amazing from the ground, too. Having the opportunity to fly over Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz is really cool.
SF: Can you see the landmarks when you’re flying formations?
MS: Yep, we keep a fairly low altitude over the water. There are only a few cities where we’ll do a show like this, on the water with a city in the background. Seattle’s one of them, and Chicago. It’s great venue.
SF: You guys are staying in Fisherman’s Wharf. What have you done in the city so far?
MS: I played some golf over at Lake Merced. I’m going to go to Alcatraz on Sunday. I’m going to talk at high schools [Friday.]
SF: You selling them the military?
MS: That’s not how I look at it. The military is not for everyone and I realize that. It’s more talking to kids about doing something they think they can’t. I have a rejection letter from the Navy, dated my birthday 2000 when I was trying to get in, saying you’re not eligible for the flight program because of your sinuses.
SF: You can get rejected for that?