RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Navy Cmdr. Kevin Mannix, flight leader and commanding officer of the Blue Angels, stood with his aircraft behind him yesterday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.
Blue Angels push planes past normal limits
Cmdr. Kevin Mannix went through a rugged four-hour practice run with his Blue Angels yesterday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.
"I'm pretty beat right now," he said standing outside his F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter to pose for a photo.
Mannix and five other pilots were practicing for the Blue Angels' performance for 1,500 schoolchildren and military members today. The air show will include about 12 other civilian and military groups or individuals.
The public event at Marine Corps Base Hawaii will begin at 9 a.m. tomorrow and end at 6 p.m. and include a carnival and car show. The air show is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Blue Angels' performance time is unannounced because the weather might affect flight time, officials said.
"We recommend people get here as early as they can," said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Demetrio Espinosa, air show spokesman, who added that about 100,000 people are expected to attend the show this weekend.
Parking for the free air shows is available on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, through the main gate on the H-3 freeway. Motorists will be directed to parking lots, and shuttles will be available to the air show.
Admission is free, and activities will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday. The preliminary schedule of the air show is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will include performances by several demonstrators including the Red Bull BO-105 helicopter, civilian aviators and two parachute teams: the Army Golden Knights and the Navy Leap Frogs.
Though the schedule of the Blue Angels has not been released, officials suggest viewers arrive early to be sure to catch the show.
It is only the third time the Blue Angels have come to Hawaii, following a 2004 visit and one about 20 years before that. After their performance the crew will talk with fans.
Mannix, 44, who became commanding officer of the Blue Angels in 2006, will lead the six-jet demonstration.
Some flight maneuvers will bring the jets to about 1 1/2 feet of each other, such as in the Blue Angels' signature maneuver, the Diamond 360, where four jets snuggled in a diamond pattern fly in a wide circular arc, he said.
Flying the F/A-18 also is physically demanding.
"When you pull g's (gravitational forces), it's like getting tackled in a football game. It hurts but it feels good," he said. "You got to be in pretty good shape."
Under heavy gravitational forces, the jet pilots contract their leg muscles to keep the blood in their head, Mannix said.
Mannix, who has a degree in computer science and mathematics, said flying a F/A-18 also takes a strong ability in math.
Moving at a mile every 10 seconds, there needs to be constant situational awareness and quick recognition and interpretation of instruments to do maneuvers, he said.
The performance has some challenges in Hawaii because the weather changes every few minutes, he said. He suggested observers come out to see the other performers as well.
Along with the Blue Angels, civilian performers will take to the sky, including Jill Long, who flies Ragged Edge, a black, blue and white S-2B Pitts Special, an acrobatic biplane.
She will perform 10 minutes of high-energy aerobatics with a graceful touch, she said. Wave at her and she will make the plane do an upside-down wave back.
Long, who wanted to become a pilot since she was 6, said she hopes her flying inspires other children to reach their dreams.
"It's not necessarily what you want to do," she said, "you have to believe in yourself and your dreams."