We have never visited San Francisco, and what a shame considering my best friend Samit has lived there for 6 years. Yup, free accommodation while experiencing San Francisco travel and I passed it up for years. Until now. Samit recommended we travel to San Francisco in October during Fleet Week as part of our best things to do in San Francisco series.
San Francisco Fleet Week
Many Fleet Week events keep the tourists, vacationers and locals entertained through a long weekend getaway from Thursday to Tuesday. Ships sail into the San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge during the Parade of Ships. Later these same ships open up for tours during the day. Marine bands march in parades and play throughout town. But honestly, everyone traveled to San Francisco for the Blue Angels Air Show.
The main attraction of the Air Show is the US Navy Blue Angels, but many others participate making it almost 4 hours long. An Air Show is scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday, but be sure to check out practice before the weekend as they soar over the bay and San Francisco city.
On the weekend the crowds start to form and the city’s population grows. Talk to a local and they will tell you it’s the busiest time of the year and usually the best weather. The weather didn’t disappoint for us either.
A Thunder Above San Francisco
As the weekend nears, the Blue Angels start to practice. You can’t even image the intensity of the jet engins as they soar above the northern parts of the city near the bay. The windows in my buddies apartment began to vibrate and our voices were drowned out by the loud roar. The hairs on my arms stood up each and every time they made a pass overhead.
Fleet Week Air Show
On Saturday we made our way down towards the bay, specifically Marina Green, just east of the Golden Gate Bridge. Boats filled the bay and the Coast Guard could be seen patrolling everywhere. We walked out on a natural pier just past the Golden Gate Yacht Club. It was a hot spot for photographers, but we arrived early enough to make room for ourselves.
The breeze sweeping off the bay was freezing, but just on the other side of rocks where we were protected from the wind it was perfect.
Coast Guard HH-65 Rescue Demonstration
The show began with a Coast Guard helicopter demonstration. This was the least exciting performance of the show, but appropriately so, since things would only get more loud and daring as the day grew older.
The Patriots Jet Team
The first group of jets to perform daring events in unison were the Patriots Jet Team. They are a civilian owned jet aerobatic team that flies L-39s.
USMC MV-22 Osprey
The old Osprey made an appearance. This thing can do some excellent dancing with rotated rotors. Flying low to the water, it created some spray as it showed off it’s maneuverability.
USAF B-2 Bomber
The stealth bomber was a crowd pleaser as it snuck up on us undetected. The large plane flies silently until it’s past you. The bomber remained high in the sky with a few large sweeping turns over the Golden Gate Bridge
RCAF Snowbirds Jet Team
The Royal Canadian Air Force’s 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, known as the Snowbirds are Canada’s military aerobatics or air show flight demonstration team. The Snowbirds colors were a great contrast to the blue and sometimes hazy sky over the San Francisco Bay. They were excellent performers with 9 jets, which made things a bit more exciting.
Navy F-18 Super Hornet
This was the sound barrier breaker. The F-18 Hornet was there to show off speed and it succeeded.
United Airlines 747
I guess United was a sponsor, because unexpectedly, a giant 747 started flying around us quite low as their familiar commercial music played on the loudspeakers. Normally, a 747 wouldn’t be very exciting, but fly it over the bay at low altitude and all of sudden it becomes very cool.
USAF F-15 Strike Eagle
Another speed demon. The F-15 Strike Eagle demonstrated it’s ability to dog fight and race to incredible speeds across the landscape.
Sean D. Tucker & Team Oracle
Probably one of the most entertaining performances of the show. This dare devil American aerobatic pilot does it all, while staying alive somehow. I can’t explain how daring his flight was. At times his bi-plane was stalling in the air in an aimless tailspin, and the next minute he was flying upside down just above the bay water.
US Navy Blue Angels
They save the best for last and so do we. This Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, is the oldest formal flying aerobatic team in the world. During the Air Show 6 F/A-18 jet aircraft are used and a C-130T Hercules nicknamed “Fat Albert” accompanies the team for logistics, carrying plane parts, equipment, and personnel between shows. This is one of the most incredible displays of flight control and does clearly steal the show. Maybe it’s the hype that makes it a rush, but honestly, I still think it’s their performance.
So, if you have plans to vacation in San Francisco, be sure to plan that trip during San Francisco Fleet Week for a show that will absolutely raise the hair on your arms.