Our Chat with the Blue Angels Pilots in Billings
We got a chance to catch up with the two US Navy Blue Angels pilots before they took off Saturday morning.
Lieutenant Commander Thomas Zimmerman and Lieutenant Commander Brian Vaught are the #7 and the #8 pilots for the Blue Angels. The whole team will be on the ground later this summer for the Yellowstone International Air Show in Billings, Montana.
The pilots were landing in Billings for coordination meetings prior to the summer's air show. Initially they were expected to simply land at the Billings airport, but then we got word that the tower approved some additional maneuvers.
Commander Zimmerman described the landing Friday and the plan for takeoff Saturday.
Lt.Cmdr. Zimmerman: We came in for a standard carrier break. So 800 feet about 350 knots, or roughly 400 miles per hour. And then we'll execute a level turn, to the downwind to parallel, and in that turn is where we'll pull it. Today, we pulled about six and a half G's. So six times the force of gravity to slow the airplane down, get below our gear and flap speed, put the gear flaps down, and then land. So, only thing different today is no tail hook and the runway wasn't moving for us.
Aaron Flint: And I hear Saturday morning, there's going to be a bit of a different kind of takeoff possibly too.
Lt.Cmdr. Zimmerman: Yeah, so when we take off tomorrow morning, we'll do our standard high performance climb. So we will climb to about 50 feet to a hundred feet off the runway, accelerate to about 300 to 400 miles per hour, and then we'll pitch up at about 35 to 45 degrees nose high depending on as long as the FAA and air traffic control is good with that.
As the #8 for the Blue Angels, Lt. Cmdr. Vaught is tasked with planning all of their events throughout the year. In addition to planning for the air show in Billings this summer, this is what the back seater does in the aircraft.
Lt.Cmdr. Vaught: So I'm the back seater. Weapons systems officer is what they are in the fleet. So I get to handle all the communications with air traffic control. I'll help out with the navigation. So the guys in the fleet will also work weapons, obviously we've refitted these for air shows. We strip a lot of the combat systems out of them. They're lighter. Then we take all the- minimize all the drag off these airplanes. So they are very high performance demonstration aircraft. And this is our Super Hornet. So last time we were here we had the legacy hornet. It's about a third larger, faster, louder. It puts on a great air show. So we're super excited. I think the local Billings area is gonna just absolutely love it.
Keep an eye on our podcast page from Monday's Montana Talks statewide 9A hour for the full audio of our chat with both commanders.
Check out this video of the takeoff from Saturday morning:
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