Like birds returning to a familiar roost, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels were back in Seattle, to take to the skies in gravity-defying Seafair flights over Lake Washington.
Boeing Shared Services once again set up a secure area where the seven blue and gold F/A-18s were precisely parked. A hangar-like space was set up nearby for the pilots and ground crew.
“Boeing has gotten so good at supporting the Blue Angels after all these years,” said Boeing Seafair Air Show Chairman Ian Tolmie, “We say at Seafair, we couldn’t do this without Boeing.”
In the week leading up to the air show, a small village was set up between the Boeing Military Delivery Center and Seattle’s Museum of Flight. Boeing provided everything the Blue Angels needed, from utilities and a covered maintenance area, to round-the-clock security and fire protection.
“We have been doing this 12 years now from this site and every year we learn something new,” said Boeing maintenance manager Bruce Klopfer. Boeing and the Blue Angels both have operating manuals spelling out all their requirements. Boeing retiree and Seafair volunteer Cathy Klein compiled the company’s booklet. “It’s like this thick,” Klopfer said, holding his finger and thumb two inches apart.
Public access to the Blue Angels area was limited. Vehicles coming onto the site were inspected by Boeing K-9 handlers and their dogs. Bay, a 4-year-old yellow Labrador, gave a through sniffing to one car, while his handler, Craig Williamson stood by. “We have the best job in the company!” Williamson said.
Boeing’s partnership with Seafair extends beyond the Blue Angels, however. Boeing highlighted the Boeing Employees Veterans Association (BEVA) during the annual Torchlight Parade and featured community partner FIRST in the Boeing tent in Genesee Park along the waterfront.
Another exciting highlight in this year’s Boeing Seafair Air Show was the inclusion of Boeing’s KC-46A tanker, which performed in its first air show before a hometown crowd.
Kristin Culler, KC-46 tanker systems engineering and integration director, said, "It was remarkable to see the KC-46’s air show debut, and it really is a tribute to the entire Boeing team that has worked so hard on the program,"
Among the thousands of people watching from boats and on shore, more than 200 KC-46 program employees and family members enjoyed the event from a special viewing area on the edge of Lake Washington. As the KC-46 tanker soared into view, the applause, cheers and smiles grew.
As part of the show, the KC-46 made three passes over the crowd. During the second, Boeing Test & Evaluation KC-46 test pilots, Ron Johnston and Troy Larson and aerial refueling operator Jason Schaub left the crowd with one final thrill – a crowd-pleasing “wing wave.”
Following the flight Johnston said it was an honor to be part of the tanker’s Seafair debut and reiterated comments he made after the tanker’s maiden flight in 2015 -- “the KC-46 flies as easy and smooth as a commercial 767!”
By Mick Boroughs and Kym Vandlac