During a practice session yesterday afternoon, two of the Blue Angels passed within feet of each other. They will perform this weekend at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.

No rest for the
winged in Hawaii

These Navy pilots are far from
family 300 days every year

Much of Maj. Len Anderson's first visit to the islands has been spent in the air, soaring at up to 400 miles an hour over Kaneohe Bay.

"Unfortunately, we have to spend a lot of our time working," said the Marine, an FA-18 pilot with the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels team since 2001. "I have taken a drive around the island, though."

Anderson, the crew's lead solo pilot, is one of six Blue Angels airmen set to perform this weekend at the 2004 Kaneohe Marine Corps-Navy Air Show. The performance will be their 30th in the United States this year, and organizers are expecting more than 50,000 attendees.

Hawaii has not hosted a Blue Angels show since 1995, when the planes flew over Kalaeloa. The team last performed at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base in 1982.

"Bases worldwide lobby to have them come," said Lt. Mike Blankenship, a Blue Angels spokesman. "We fly in different environments every week."

Anderson said everything is set for this weekend's 45-minute Kaneohe show, which is considered both a recruiting tool and a chance to "show the American taxpayer what their Navy and Marine Corps can do."

Maj. Len Anderson, a Marine, is one of the Blue Angels pilots who will be performing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe this weekend. Here, he stood on the tarmac yesterday in front of the FA-18 Hornets that will be flown in the show.

Blankenship did say, though, that two Blue Angels -- one of which was not part of the aerobatic team -- were not included in yesterday's formations because they needed maintenance and new parts. He said the parts were scheduled to be flown in last night, and there should be six Blue Angels in the weekend shows as planned.

Blue Angel pilots met with local media yesterday afternoon after a series of practices for today's show, which is reserved for military members. Shows tomorrow and Sunday are open to the public.

The Blue Angels pilots -- along with their officers and more than 100 mechanics and other support personnel -- have been running through their aerobatic performance since Tuesday, when they flew in to Oahu from California.

This weekend's shows will be among Anderson's last with the Blue Angels. He is set to return to regular duty at the end of October after the team's performance season is complete.

Blankenship said pilots usually stay with the Blue Angels for two to three years before they move on to give others a chance to join.

The long work hours and time away from home are also factors in the heavy turnover rate, he said. Crew members are usually away from their families 300 days of the year, much of which is spent performing or readying for shows.

"You can leave and come back, and a whole soccer season's gone by," said Anderson, who has two young children.

He also said, with a laugh, that he spends more time with his fellow pilots than with his wife, Heather. But at least Anderson is getting to see her this week.

She flew in for the Kaneohe show, and the couple plans to spend a few days in Waikiki next week, he said, before she goes home and he heads to a show in Key West, Fla.

2004 Kaneohe Marine
Corps-Navy air show

What: 2004 Kaneohe Marine Corps-Navy Air Show featuring the Navy's Blue Angels

Where: Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay

When: Tomorrow and Sunday. Gates open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The show will start at 11:45 a.m. each day. Admission and parking are free.

Show highlights:

>> Opening ceremony

>> U.S. Navy Seal Parachute Jump

>> F-15 Flyby

>> Eric Beard and the Russian Thunder

>> F-16 Demonstration Team

>> Hank Bruckner flying the Cap 10

>> SH-60 Demonstration

>> Greg Poe Flying the Edge 540

>> C-17 Demo Team

>> Clint Churchill in the Extra 300s

>> U.S. Coast Guard HH-65 and C-130 Demonstrations

>> F-15 Demonstration

>> Patty Wagstaff Flying the Goodrich Extra 300s

>> P-3 Demonstration and Military Capabilities Demonstration

>> Blue Angels Demonstration Team

Marine Corps-Navy air show

Blue Angels Official Web site



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