San Francisco Fleet Week 2019


Each year during Columbus Day weekend, San Francisco hosts the Blue Angels at its annual Fleet Week celebration. In recent years, Fleet Week evolved from just a parade of ships and an airshow to a weeklong exercise in emergency preparedness in coordination with the U.S. Navy. The parade of ships included participants from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, along with ships from our allies if available.

This year the ships from the U.S. Navy included the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset, the guided missile destroyer USS Zumwalt, the guided missile cruiser USS Princeton, the littoral combat ship USS Charleston, and the dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard brought their cutters Terrell Horne and Steadfast, and the Royal Australian Navy brought the destroyer HMAS Brisbane. The USS Zumwalt was very interesting to see in person because its stealthy design makes it stand out from all the other conventional warships.

On Friday, there was very little wind, which posed a problem when the smoke from several of the performers did not clear the air show box. By the time the Blue Angels flew, the smoke was making it difficult to watch the performance. The air show opened with the national anthem, and jumpers from the U.S. Navy’s elite parachute team, the Leap Frogs, deploying a large American flag.

Fleet Week is also one of the only air shows around that include a performance from a civilian airliner. In this case it was a United 777-300. While not an uncommon sight for those of us that live near San Francisco International Airport, the Boeing 777 put on one heck of a routine, because it’s really impressive to see an airliner enter the air show box over the Presidio at low altitude.

For a look at the C-17 flight demonstration, click here: C-17 demo at San Francisco Fleetweek Air Show 2019

A nice surprise to the show was a C-17 from McChord AFB. Originally it was not on the schedule, but it flew 3 passes each day nonetheless and was a great addition to the show. The Patriots Jet Team performed on Saturday and Sunday only, and always put on a breathtaking performance.

The U.S. Coast Guard performed a SAR demo just like previous years. But, the first pass they made in formation with a C-27 gets better year after year. You could really tell that the MH-65 Dolphin helicopters were in closer formation this year than they had been in previous years.

For a video of the SAR demonstration, click here:  US Coast Guard SAR demo at Fleetweek 2019

In addition to the SAR demo, a yellow MH-60T Jayhawk that was painted for the centennial of Coast Guard aviation in 2016 was seen flying around the waterfront. It was not part of the air show, but happened to be visiting the Bay Area during the week.

Next up, Greg Colyer flew his T-33 “Ace Maker” around the bay. His routine makes several low passes with Alcatraz in the background, giving photographers a great opportunity for unique shots. 2019 was also the debut of Sean Tucker’s new act with two planes from Team Oracle. Jessy Panzer joined Team Oracle flying the Extra 300L alongside Sean Tucker’s Oracle Challenger III.

Just like the previous year, one of the most anticipated acts for aviation fans was the formation of the P3 Orion and the P-8 Poseidon. It’s inevitable that the P-3s will all get replaced by the P-8, so seeing it fly at an airshow was a special moment.

For some video of the Navy patrol aircraft in flight, click here:  US Navy P-3 Orion and P-8 Poseidon fly during San Francisco Fleetweek 2019

2019 also saw San Francisco Fleet Week host the F-35 demo team for the first time. Hearing the rumble of that Pratt & Whitney F135 echo around the buildings really got everyone’s attention.

The U.S. Air Force concluded the demo of their latest 5th gen fighter with a Heritage flight joining Steve Hinton in a P-51 Mustang.

For a video of the F-35 demonstration and the Heritage Flight, click here:  F-35 Lightning II Demo and Heritage Flight San Francisco Fleetweek 2019

The Blue Angels also performed a first a Fleet Week when they had an extra jet join the routine as a photographer. Standard moves like the Diamond 360 and the Echelon Parade that normally contained 4 jets in formation now included a fifth jet flying just outside the others. It was really quite a sight to witness, as you can see in the photo below.


More photos from the show:


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