Fleet Week fly-along offers bird's-eye view of San Francisco 

Editor’s note: Alexis Terrazas took a ride through the Bay Area skies with Team Oracle, the stunt team that is performing as part of Fleet Week this weekend.

Whether it was a conscious decision or not, I think skipping breakfast — and lunch — was a good idea.

Roughly 24 hours before strapping on a parachute and boarding the Oracle Extra 300L at San Carlos Airport, I was asked if I wanted to take a media flight with Sean Tucker, the world-renowned aerobatic pilot for Team Oracle.

For a kid whose only pilot experience came via “Blazing Angels” on Xbox 360, the answer was easy. “Yes!”

But before Tucker and I could take our personal walk in the clouds, it was safety first.

Team Oracle walked me through what to do — and not do — in case of an emergency. For obvious reasons, I remembered those preflight bailout instructions better than any others I had ever heard.

But within moments of takeoff, I witnessed aerial views of the Bay Area that were as foreign to me as they were familiar to Tucker. And after a brief photo session that included an upside-down stint, Tucker gave the command. “Let’s go dancing.”

For a guy with next to no rhythm, I welcomed the “dance in the clouds,” not knowing how my stomach would hold up to the bold aerial maneuvers. If I am allowed to brag, my tummy was “aces.”

After an array of flips and spins that resulted in me feeling 6 G’s, it was time to head home. But like a true pro, Tucker saved the best for last.

“Here,” he said. “I’ll show you the world real fast. You wanna do a high-speed roll? Here ya go ... ready?”

Before I could completely answer, my head slung to the right side of the cockpit as we rapidly revolved three times, ending the 25-minute flight.

“That’s my world,” he said.

And despite being a brief visitor to that world, the memories of soaring through the clouds and toward the sun surely will not be short-lived.

 

Faces of Fleet Week

Capt. Greg McWherter

The 42-year-old flight leader and commanding officer of the Blue Angels shares his thoughts on flying, Fleet Week and the 100th anniversary of Navy aviation. Get to know the man in Blue Angel No. 1.

How does it feel to be back at Fleet Week? Well, it’s fantastic. We look forward to Fleet Week every year, and it’s a great chance for us to showcase our talent, class and professionalism. But also it’s a great opportunity to give that little bit back to the community. This community here in San Francisco has supported our men and women in uniform for years. So it’s wonderful to be able to come back here and participate in Fleet Week.

This is your second go-round as commanding officer of the Blue Angels. Can you tell us what that’s like? The normal tour for a Blue Angels pilot is somewhere between two and three years. I finished my normal tour back in November, and the team asked me to come back and help finish out this year in June. So it’s good to be back.

I understand the pilots are celebrating a special anniversary. What is it? We’re celebrating 100 years of naval aviation ... and it all started right here with a gentleman named Eugene Ely on the flight deck of the USS Pennsylvania. So this is a great time to be a part of naval aviation.

Is this air show more than an array of demonstrations? It’s so much more than demonstration. It’s a lot of fun to fly the demonstration, but we’re all very proud of our service and we’re excited to tell the story of the Navy and Marine Corps. And as exciting as the demonstration is, the majority of our good work is actually down on the ground. We visit schools, community events, hospitals ... we answer questions, talk to folks, get them excited about what we do in the Navy and Marine Corps and hopefully inspire them to potentially follow in our footsteps.

Do you have a favorite maneuver? I do. I like the double Farvel. That’s where one and four are upside-down flying and two and three are right-side up to form the perfect diamond.

Up, up and away

Check out the Fleet Week events:

TODAY

  • Air show flying: 12:30 to 3 p.m.
  • Blue Angels: 3 to 4 p.m.
  • Meet and greet the Blue Angels pilots: 7:15 to 7:45 p.m.; near Aquarium of the Bay


SATURDAY

  • Air show flying: 12:30 to 3 p.m.
  • Blue Angels: 3 to 4 p.m.


SUNDAY

  • Air show flying: 12:30 to 3 p.m.
  • Blue Angels: 3 to 4 p.m.


140TH ANNUAL ITALIAN HERITAGE PARADE

  • When: Sunday, 12:30 p.m.
  • Where: Starting at the foot of Jefferson and Stockton streets, going through North Beach on Columbus Avenue and ending at Washington Square Park. Followed by band concert.
  • What: Military marching band, color guards, marching units


PARADE OF SHIPS

  • When: Saturday, 11 a.m.
  • Where: Under the Golden Gate Bridge, northern San Francisco waterfront
  • Ships: USS Carl Vinson, USS Bonhomme Richard, USS Antietam, USS Milius, USS Chief, USS Guadalupe, USCGC Bertholf, USCGC Alert, HMCS Ottawa, HMCS Saskatoon, HMCS Nanaimo, HMCS Brandon, SS Jeremiah O’Brien.

SHIP TOURS

USS Bonhomme Richard

  • When: Today through Monday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Where: Pier 30-32


USS Milius, USS Antietam, USS Chief

  • When: Sunday and Monday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Where: Pier 27


USCGC Bertholf, USCGC Alert, HMCS Ottawa

  • When: Sunday and Monday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Where: Pier 35


BEST PLACE TO WATCH

  • The City’s waterfront, from Marina Green to Fisherman’s Wharf.


TICKETS

For the festivities today through Sunday, premium box seats along the Marina Green waterfront can be purchased on-site today. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday can be purchased online. Tickets for Saturday are $35 and $30 for Sunday. Children under 4 have free admission, but will not have a seat.

TRANSIT OPTIONS

  • BART, Muni and Caltrain will all be running normal hours.
  • Those taking BART, exit at Embarcadero station.
  • Those taking Caltrain from the Peninsula and South Bay, exit at Fourth and King streets station.
  • Those taking Muni may use the following routes: The F line streetcar runs from the Castro to Fisherman’s Wharf via downtown. Bus route 22 runs from Potrero Hill to the Marina via the Mission. Bus route 30 runs from the Marina to downtown via Chinatown. Bus route 47 runs from Caltrain to Fisherman’s Wharf via Civic Center. Bus route 108 runs from Treasure Island to downtown.  


TV AND RADIO

  • On KSFO (560 AM), listen to the live broadcast on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.
  • On KRON (Ch. 4), watch the Blue Angels live on Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m.
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