Fleet Week is an annual United States Navy, Marine Corp, and Coast Guard tradition. For one week of the year, active military ships, usually deployed overseas, return home and dock in various major cities. It serves as both a vacation for the sailors and a celebration of the three branches of the military involved. During this week, several military-esque events take place within the host cities. For one, the public is allowed to board a select few of the visiting ships. Military demonstrations are also a common occurence (such as a ship parade). Arguably the most prominent of the events, and definitely the loudest, are the airshows.

I was initially excited for the ships, particularly because there was a chance an aircraft carrier, an actual Nimitz Class aircraft carrier, would be in the San Francisco Bay. No luck this year but it’s interesting that the HMCS Calgary, a Canadian Navy ship, is visiting.

The lack of an aircraft carrier was too bad but there were still the airshows to look forward to. I used to be a huge aviation enthusiast and would still be if I had any time these days. Some of that passion lingers, though, and I was excited for the airshows. As with recent SF Fleetweek tradition, the US Navy’s Blue Angels were performing and they are the de facto highlight of the shows. I’ve read a great deal about them and being able to watch them live was a younger Kevin’s dream. The other performances in the show were:

  • The Breitling Jet Team (largest civilian aerobatic display team based in France, flying Czech L-39 Albatros jets)
  • Team Oracle’s Sean D. Tucker flying in a prop plane
  • A United Airlines Boeing 747
  • The RCAF CF-18 demonstration team
  • The Navy Leap Frogs (parachute demonstration team)
  • An F-22 raptor
  • A Coast Guard MH65C rescue helicopter
  • The Patriots Jet Team (another civilian demonstration team, based in the US, also flying L-39s)

The airshow on Saturday started at noon and ended at 4. The Blue Angels were the last to fly at 3. I biked out to Hawk Hill at noon as a quick “morning” exercise and also to watch the show. The usual road up was restricted to downhill traffic, as a safety precaution for Fleet Week, and I had to climb up from the northside on a road I had only suspected of existing before.

The weather was amazing. Clear skies, no fog, and unusually warm temperatures. It was almost a perfect day for an airshow, if not for the uncharacteristically hot midday sun. The Hawk Hill “summit” offers stunning views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific coast. It was a good first stop to watch the show from but was also a bit too far. I did get some pretty impressive pictures of the Breitling team’s performance.

Geico… Save money… Geico. This was so compelling, I now have Geico insurance for my nonexistent car, home, and boat.

I wanted to get closer and the next stop was Battery Spencer. Battery Spencer is at a lower point on Hawk Hill. It’s east of the summit and much closer to the bridge and city. There was a whole lot of people here and not a lot of shade. With the midday sun pressing down on me for so long, it was getting a tad bit uncomfortable. I also forgot to bring sunscreen!

I stayed here for a bit too long but managed to see an F-22 Raptor for the first time. It’s probably the most advanced military fighter out there and definitely one of the most iconic.

The next stop was the Golden Gate Bridge. The eastern path had the best view but was also closed to cycling on the weekends. I had to walk the bridge for the first time and was surprised at how long it took. The United Airlines 747 was demonstrating during this time. The massive passenger jet looked a bit odd doing aerobatics (or as much as a lumbering 747 could) amongst sleek military and civilian one/two-seater jets. Nice ad, United Airlines, but I’m still picking the cheapest flight on hipmunk™ (the fastest, easiest way to plan travel)!

The last stop was Fort Mason and it was to watch the Blue Angels. Fort Mason is in the city, on the northern end and directly east of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s much much closer to the airshow. After all, it’s the Blue Angels and I didn’t want to see them as dots in the sky…

I have to admit. I’m a casual. I only use a smartphone camera to take pictures. This is partly why I don’t have amazing photos of the Blue Angels. Some of my friends have posted absolutely gorgeous photos of them and mine pale in comparison. Nevertheless, here are some of my best from today.

Oh, one last thing. After the show, I was heading home and down Bay Street comes this massive group of motorcyclists weaving through traffic. It was pretty cool to see such a large congregation of bikers… I mean, you don’t see that everyday right? Then the intersection turned red for Bay Street and everything turned sour. The bikers continued to cross the street en masse and some of them even took the liberty to stop in front of cars trying to inch into the intersection. Oh my, sorry the cars offended you for trying to cross when it’s green! I was one of the many, the unfortunate, to be blocked by these bikers. The intersection lights turned red for our direction, no one was able to make it through the green. The bikers just kept coming like an endless horde of obnoxiously loud beasts. It turned green again for us, and they kept coming. It wasn’t until the third green did the stream of bikers peter out.

At some point during this nonsense, the engine revs from the motorcycles started to sound like massive, dry farts.