The Blue Angels, diamond position.
|The annual Fleet
Week appearance by the Navy's precision flying team the Blue Angels
has San Francisco buzzing for days at a time. The sheer military braggadocio
of their awesome speed and power stirs tensions between hawks and doves.
The sonic serenade of the F-18 Hornets' jet engines scares cats and veterans - pets
and vets! But no reaction can match those of San Franciscans who witnessed
the startling debut of the Blue Angels over the City skyline in 1983. Without
notifying the public or then mayor Dianne Feinstein, the Navy obtained
a waiver from Federal Aviation Administration restrictions against flying
very fast at altitudes within 1000 feet of things like buildings and people.
When a practice session began without warning in the skies of San Francisco
on Wednesday, October 12, the public freaked. Hundreds of calls were received
at police stations and San Francisco International Airport during the half
hour the Navy jets (then A-4 Skyhawks) roared over and around downtown office buildings and
City landmarks. One of the jets is said to have come within a few feet
of Coit Tower. Feinstein ordered the Navy to land the jets but the session
had already ended, and even if it hadn't, the matter wasn't within her
jurisdiction. To be sure, many people thought the Blue Angels were cool
then, as a millions do today. But in 1983, a lot of people thought the
Russians were coming. Like San Francisco, Feinstein quickly became accustomed
to the annual spectacle. One year after the cease and desist, Feinstein
went on a ride-along with Lt. Commander Mike Gershon. The iron mayor described
an exhilarating experience and said she wasn't at all queasy. Fleet Week
started in 1981 to celebrate the anniversary of the U.S. Navy. San Francisco
and the Bay Area have a rich naval history, though the Navy's presence,
and that of all military personnel, has been reduced to almost nothing
since the Bay Area base closures of the 1990s.