BZ's San Francisco Fleet Week 2012

Photo Gallery

Hey, it's time for another installment of San Francisco Fleet Week pictures! Photographing the Fleet Week festivities is something I look forward to all year, and it's no different for 2012. This year, I've collected pictures from the Thursday survey flight, Friday practice, and the Saturday and Sunday show.

The air show in San Francisco is special. The stage is huge, and there are so many different ways to see and enjoy the show. The scenery is second to none, and the pictures from the show with the San Francisco backdrop cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

The Blue Angels are back again this year, along with the Patriot demonstration team, Coast Guard helicopter rescue demo, F-22 Raptor, Canadian CF-18, F-18F SuperHornet, T-33 Acemaker, various fly-bys, and assorted civilian aerobatic acts.

Nikon D7000, Sigma 150-500mm OS lens. Nikon D200, Nikkor 18-105mm lens - Bernard Zee

Something different this year was the addition of Marines weapons display in Alameda, by the USS Hornet. Man, they sure did bring out their big toys! Here's a closeup of the AAV-7 turret, which houses a .50 cal M2HB machine gun, and a Mk-19 40mm grenade launcher. The AAV-7 is an amphibious tracked vehicle which the Marines use for assaulting beaches, and to conduct mechanized combat support ashore. I believe these guys came up from Camp Pendelton.

The biggest and baddest beast out there has got to be the M1A1 Abrams tank! Weighing over 60 tons, the M1A1 provides a superior blend of speed, firepower, and protection.

The big stick of the Abrams is the 120mm Rheinmetall smoothbore canon. Able to fire a variety of different ammunition, it is capable of defeating all known enemy armor.

We were lucky to get there early, as there wasn't much of a line yet - so I'm off to explore the tank! Right underneath the main gun here is the driver's hatch.

This is where the driver sits - in a reclined position. He steers the tank with a handlebar and controls the throttle with the twist of a wrist, like with a motorcycle!

One of the really cool things about the Marines are, they are really friendly bunch, and great to talk with. That, and they're very happy to show off their toys! Here I am looking up after dropping into the main turret. Happy, happy, joy, joy!! If I remember correctly, the 2 Marines here are the loader and gunner for this tank. Brought their equipment up from 29 Palms (Southern California) for the show.

Here I am sitting in the loader station, looking right at the gunner's and commander's spots. Pretty cramped in there, but lots of room compared to Russian tanks! According to the tank commander, nothing compares to the feeling of blasting across the terrain at high speeds in the tank (I want to try that!). I can also see why most tank commanders would rather ride looking out the hatch than be buttoned up inside :-)

Some consider the tank the King of the battlefield. Artillery on the other hand, is widely considered the Queen! Massed artillery fire is not only devastating, it is supremely demoralizing for the enemy.

This is the M777 155mm light towed Howitzer. 42% lighter than the M198 gun it replaces, the M777 can be transported easily by the V-22 Osprey or CH-47 helicopter. It has a updated digital fire control system, and can use the new GPS guided rounds, which allow very precise fire out to 25 miles!

The LAV-25 is a another cool vehicle used by the Marine Corps. Based on the Swiss Piranha, the LAV-25 is capable of amphibious operations (but only on calm waters).

On land, it can sprint over 60mph, carrying a crew of 3 with a complement of 4 fully equipped dismounts.

Main armament is the M242 25mm chain gun - which is devastating on anything short of enemy tanks.

In prior years, not a single weapon was to be found at the Fleet Week booths, as the Marines only showcased their construction equipment and disaster relief related capabilities. So it was a welcomed change to be able to see what the Marines are truly about. Since we were rushing for time (needed to board our boat), I couldn't stay too long. Here's a parting shot of a Marine sniper with his Barrett M107 .50 cal Long Range Sniper Rifle. Hope they're back next year!

Jumping the gun for Fleet Week is the USS Makin Island (LHD-8). It arrived earlier in the week, and while they were part of the disaster preperation exercises, were not part of the Saturday Parade of Ships.

On board the Makin Island are some really neat aircraft though - including this tricked out AH-1Z Viper. Would loved to have seen it flying!

Other aircraft on board included several MV-22 Opreys (it's all folded up in this shot), MH-60 Seahawk helicopters, UH-1Y Venom (the rest not pictured), CH-53 Super Sea Stallions, and AV-8B Harrier. The Makin Island was open for ship tours for Fleet Week, but I wasn't able to make it aboard.

Leading off the parade of ships on Saturday was the USS Preble (DDG-88), here with the Golden Gate Bridge.

The USS Preble is an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. Equipped with the powerful phased array radar Aegis Combat system, the destroyer is capable of anti aircraft, anti-surface, and anti-submarine warfare.

Providing visual flair to the parade of ships is the SFFD fireboat Phoenix.

Anothe Arleigh Burke class destroyer is the USS Spruance (DDG-111). Completed in September 2011, Spruance is a very new ship - equipped with the latest digital networking backbone.

Representing the Coast Guards is the USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720). The Sherman is a high endurance cutter based out of Alameda.

From Canada is the HMCS Algonquin (DDG 283). An Iroquois class destroyer, the Algonquin is homeported in CFB Esquimalt.

One more shot of a another Canadian vessel - this is the HMCS Brandon (MM 710). The Brandon is a Kingston class coastal defence vessel, also out of Esquimalt, British Columbia.

To start off the show (on Sunday), is the Trumpet Studio from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Here playing the national anthems (Canada and U.S.). They sounded really great, btw!

I'm never quite close enough to the rescue swimmer demo. Drat! Well, at least I had some close ups from the time I went out with the CG Aux on a rescue swimmer helo ops (some time ago).

The orange MH-65 Dolphin is an iconic Coast Guard aircraft. I often see it around Moffett, SFO, and of course over the bay.

They're almost always used in search and rescue operations - especially involving boating accidents in and around the Bay.

Zipping by for a couple of quick passes are the Marine Corps AV-8B harriers.

Now the only operators of that type of aircraft, after Great Britain cut their defense budgets and obsoleted their fleet of harriers.

Here's a trio of them from sunday with the Moon above them.

Is it a plane, or is it a helicopter? Well it's both! MV-22 Osprey is a complex piece of machinery with it's tilting engines and redundant drive shafts.

It can fly like a airplane with the rotors facing forward, and hover like a helicopter with the rotors tilted upwards. Verdict is probably still out whether it can live up to its promises in a combat environment.

Dave Mathieson flies the carbon fiber MX2 in the Super Dave airshow!

Here's Dave flying in front of Alcatraz.

A close up view (from the tug boat Matzapeta) of Super Dave. Booyah!!

Communicating with the pilot from Municipal Pier.

Clawing through the air slowly!

One last pass of 'the Rock'.

Zipping in front of the Golden Gate Bridge is Greg Colyer in the T-33 Shooting Star 'Acemaker'.

The Lockeed P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet fighter used operationally by the US Air Force. Designed and built in just 143 days in 1943, the jet was not ready for service before the end of WWII.

It did enter service in the early stages of the Korean War, but was outclassed by the swept wing Mig-15.

The first American air-to-air jet kill was made when an F-80 shot down a North Korean Mig-15. Even though there was some success against the Migs, the F-86 Sabres were more evenly matched. Later in the war, F-80s switched to flying exclusively ground attack, and photo reconnaissance missions.

Phoenix fireboat in the foreground, as the Acemaker starts to climb out in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

This year, Greg added smoke to his jet - as can be seen in this sweeping turn.

Greg 'Wired' Colyer flies a really awesome show, with some nice low and fast passes. Here he going down low behind the USCGC Tern.

Sailboats and their masts and rigging are part of the scenery at Fleet Week. Challenging to not have the autofocus lock on to the nearer masts and lose focus on the plane!

Greg's T-33 is a 2 seater trainer version of the F-80 Shooting Star. Still turning, he starts to pull up.

Going overhead!

Flying very low in front of the center buoy ship is Mike Wiskus in the Lucas Oil Pitts S-1-1 1b.

How low he is can be guaged by the reflection of the red Lucas Oil plane in the water.

Lots of smoke and vertical looping!

Followed by impressive low level passes and trick flying.

The obligatory Alcatraz pass.

What's this? Something new! It's the huge Sapphire Princess Cruise liner behind the Lucas plane.

At Over 3 football fields long (950ft), the Sapphire is a huge ship capable of carrying 2670 passengers in luxurious comfort! Maybe I'll go on a cruise one of these days :-)

Making a couple of passes on Saturday was the very high tech B-2 Stealth Bomber.

A lot less high tech, but very stealthy nevertheless, is this Pelican bomber - one of which splattered me and a couple of other photographers that weekend! I just got a little bit on my jacket and camera - the other 2 got the worst of it!

One more pass of the B-2 'Spirit'. Unfortunately, a little too high to get much scenery in the shot. This one has a mast - which at least tags it as Fleet Week!

Making a spectacular entrance from behind the crowd at Aquatic park, is this Candadian CF-18 Hornet. On a couple of the days, the humidity levels were quite high, which allowed for spectacular vapor displays like this!

One way to get around that fact that many of the performances are so far away, is to watch the show from a boat! Here's a nice close view of the Canadian Hornet as it makes a banking pass.

Fog, the great unknown, threatened to derail the air show a couple of times. Heavy fog cut short the Thursday survey flights and cancelled much of the Sunday show - though the Blues did fly after an hour delay.

Conditions which favor fog also allow the formation of spectacular vapor cones though - so it's a fine line between too much humidity and not enough!

Some nice vapor action as the CF-18 makes a tight turn with afterburners.

On the foggiest day, where he had to basically cancel the bulk of the show, the Canandian Hornet pilot did a final and most bodacious high speed surprise pass from behind. I was lucky enough to catch some of it here, with the wispy vapors curling about the wingtips and sun backlighting it creating a prism effect!

Can you feel the POWER?? Loud and Magnificent!!

Like a set of angel wings.

Being a major sponsor of the Fleet Week air show, United gets to showcase some of their planes low over San Francisco Bay. Headed RIGHT AT the boat was this Boeing 777 during the Friday practice.

For Saturday and Sunday, United flew their Jumbo 747 - here playing peek-a-boo with the low clouds/fog.

A closeup of the 747 as he retracts the landing gear.

The 747 made a few passes, here lined up with the Hybrid Hornblower cruise boat, and the massive Sapphire Princess Cruise ship.

A little too much zoom, as I try to get the 747 and Alcatraz in the same shot.

Gear down with the Golden Gate Bridge and a Blue and Gold Fleet Boat.

Heat from the engine exhaust can be seen distorting the upper bits of the bridge in this United 747 high speed pass.

When the fog obscures the Golden Gate Bridge, that's a bad sign for the air show...

That was the case Sunday, where all the Patriots could do was fly high in formation and make a few passes with smoke.

See? Pretty amazing they got anywhere close to that soup!

Here's the Patriots jet team announcer LTC Jon 'Jughead' Counsell, disappointed there's not much to talk about when fogged out :-(

Here's a pass of the Patriots trailing red, white and blue smoke with the USCGC Sockeye.

The Patriot Jet demonstration team started out flying 2 L-39 Albatros aircraft in 2003. Over the years, they added first one, then another plane to the mix, until the filled out to their current amazing 6 aircraft in 2010!

Looking backwards towards the city, the Patriots make a sweep turn to line up from behind the crowd.

With smoke on, the Patriot jets fly above the iconic Ghirardelli square sign.

On a different day, the Patriots were able to fly their complete routine in clear blue skies.

Lots of boats on the water for the Saturday show, where they got to watch an outstanding Patriots air show.

The L-39 Albatros is an advanced jet trainer made in Czechoslovakia, and used by over 30 Air Forces around the world.

They do some tight moves where they criss-cross each other without much room to spare.

The Patriot pilots are an impressive group, having flown for the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, and Snowbirds!

For a civilian jet team, I feel the Patriots are right up there with the Snowbirds, and put most national jet demonstration teams to shame! Probably only the Blues and Thunderbirds are more impressive.

A low flying Patriot lined up with the Alcatraz tower.

Their low pass is no where as fast as the Blues sneak pass, but he gets very low.

The Royal Prince (from Red and White Fleet) boat about to obliterate the view of the low pass - But this shot looks pretty cool with them in the foreground!

I like the swirly smoke patterns with the pair of Patriot planes.

Turning in front of the GGB.

Framed by Sail masts.

Parting shot, with the Berkeley Hills.

The Patriot's Boeing 727 support plane makes a low pass in front of Alcatraz Saturday.

Weaving its way forward from the Angel Island side, the F-22 makes a nice loud entrance.

A fifth generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor uses stealth technology along with supercruise and thrust vecotoring engine nozzles.

The Raptor is powerful, fast, and dominating!

To keep its stealth profile, missiles are carried internally. Here's the Raptor openning its missile bays (no missiles for the show though!).

The 2D thrust vectoring nozzles can be seen here with the plane going away.

With the budget cuts, the Air Force scaled back many of its tactical demonstration teams in 2012 - leaving on the F-22 tactical demo, and the Thunderbirds.

On the high speed pass, the Raptor generates a bit of a vapor 'beard' under the engine intakes.

This was about as good as it gets in terms of vapor from the Raptor (at least, that I've seen!).

That green cyclops eye of the Heads Up Display gives the F-22 a menacing look.

With its powerful Pratt and Whitney F119-PW-100 engines, each generating 35,000lbs of thrust in afterburner, the Raptor can really tear it up!

They kept the Raptor in a very tight area, as the plane does not need a lot of space to accelerate or turn!

For the show, they used a lot of afterburner - but with the ability to supercruise (go supersonic without using afterburner), the plane can cover a lot of ground fast without burning a lot of fuel.

Coming in from the right behind the rigging of the Balcutha, the Raptor joins up with a P-51 and F-16 for the Heritage flight.

Different generations of U.S. fighter power. The P-51 is WWII and Korean War vintage, the F-16 in use since 1976, and the F-22 as what every fighter pilot dreams of flying!

Air boss Donna Flynn controlling the air space, alongside the Heritage Flight coordinator.

Heritage flight stack.

Breaking up the formation.

Afterburner pass from the Hill AFB F-16.

Parting view of the Raptor, as he leaves the airshow box.

In year's past, the Super Hornet demo was the undisputed king of vapor at Fleetweek. While there was some decent activity in that regard, there wasn't quite the same pop this year.

Superficially resembling the legacy F-18 Hornet, the F-18F Super Hornet is considerably bigger, and basically a completely different aircraft!

Tough to get close to the Superbug at Fleetweek, but I get an occassional close view.

Pulling up sharply, not only does he get some angel wings, there's trailing distortions from the wingtips which are visible against the patchy clouds.

Got my best shots from the boat! Really enjoyed this backlit, rainbow tinged vapor cone!

Another keeper, as the sun really makes the vapor explode in the picture!

Last look at the SuperHornet on gossamer wings.

Sean Tucker flying the Oracle Challenger II never fails to wow the crowds at Fleetweek.

Tossing his red bi-plane through the air with seemingly wild abandon, Sean Tucker does thing with his plane that I never even thought would be possible!

Low with smoke past my favorite Coast Guard vessel - the USCGC Tern.

The Blues ground team make their way on the Muni pier. I believe that's LT Katie Kelly, the Blues Public Affairs Officer.

Fat Albert starts the show off by flying from behind the crowd, above San Francisco towards Alcatraz.

A dynamic view of the Blues C-130 as it makes a sharp turn in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Maybe it's tradition, but only Marine pilots fly Fat Albert at the show.

Here's a shot of the Tug Mazpeta, which I was on board taking pictures Friday. One of the best seats in the house!

Propeller tips tracing corkscrew vapor trails in the humid, cold, San Francisco Bay air.

Surprisingly nimble for a large 4 engine turbo-prop transport!

One of the more exciting passes by Fat Albert as he makes a low high speed pass in front of the waterfront.

You can see the power pouring from the 4 engine exhaust as the big plane heads down low above the water.

Boats, planes, and the bridge. What else can you ask for? :-)

Fat Albert passing in front of Alcatraz.

'It's FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT Allbert!'. LT Mark Tedrow, as the Blues #7 Narrator. The #7 Narrator goes on to fly #6 opposing solo next year, and then to #5 lead solo the year after that.

Photo pass by the Blues C-130.

The Blue Angels are undoubtedly what everyone thinks of when you mention Fleet Week! They open they show by flying over Angel island towards the city of San Francisco.

As the planes get closer, the two solo planes split from the main group, and then also from each other.

Then circle back around for a crossing move at show center. One of the very few good captures of the crossings as my timing has just been consistently 1/10sec off! AARRGH.

The blues shots are a mixture of pics from Thur to Sun, from different locations. Since it's not possible to move around (much) when the show starts, it's a good thing there's a few days to try different spots!

Four ship diamond and Alcatraz.

That was a nice day, as they're pulling some vapor in their turn.

The diamond making their way over San Francisco. That triangular looking building is the Transamerica Pyramid - which, by the way, stands as the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco.

On the practice days, they flew the #7 jet(s) - here on the other side of the GGB span.

The opposing solo making a nice fast turn overhead. That's vapor condensation off the wings baby!

Blues #7 plane posing with that orange colored bridge.

Blues 4 ships with Coit tower, and a bit of the Bay Bridge behind it.

Another iconic Fleet Week shot of the Blues opposing solo.

Coming and going!

You can get some really close shots of the Blues from the location close to the GGB, as well as some wide scenic shots like this of the 6 ship formation with Alcatraz.

But for most of the show, there's more action closer to show center.

Blues 'Fortus', with a sail mast.

For a moment there, they'll line up just right!

Minimum radius turn showing some afterburner action.

Seemed to be left of Alcatraz this year, instead of going around it.

Oh! Lovely, lovely, vapor!! Wished I was closer. :-)

Ah, the center buoy ship would be the place to be - but the FAA doesn't seem to want that. Sad face.

Just to break up the F-18 love fest, here's a Brown Pelican - one of the original flyers also flying at Fleet Week.

#5 with Alcatraz.

The Double Farvel.

One of the few manuevers I can name!

The solo pilots passing overhead from behind the city.

Hoping the Echelon Parade pass would be a little lower to better frame Alcatraz. Maybe next year!

And this of course, is the start of the Left Echelon Roll.

Which is the signal for all good photographers to be on the watch out for...


Always the highlight for me at Fleetweek, with the boats, the bridge, and the high speed F-18 #5!

The Tern, in beautiful position to feel the power of the transonic pass!

Mouth watering cotton candy on the Hornet!

Looking good with the Salsalito hills behind it.

What's this?

It's the gigantic shot blocking 'Racoon' barge of the Army Corp of Engineers and its crane! ARRRRGGGGHHH!!! :-)

Followed by assorted focus killing riff-raff like the blue and gold fleet ferry, assorted sailboats, tugs, and even the fireboat Phoenix! This year was particularly vexing - but here's a pretty cool shot I like with the plane still miraculously in focus!

Nice vapor cone on the pullup though! Very unusual to have the massive Princes Cruise liner in the frame.

This year, I DID have the presence of mind to flip around and catch the 'other' sneak pass coming in from behind the city!

Now this guy is LOUD, and really catches people by surprise.

Some feathery wings on the pullup!

And just because I'm so up about the sneak pass, here's another one from a different perspective!

YES! From the water, you can get a shot of the sneak pass with the City behind it!

You can see the pressure waves off the exhaust as diagonal distortions to the buildings in the background. (if you look hard enough!)

This friday pass was one of the most spectacular, as the humidity was pretty good, and I had a great angle to frame it with - here passing by Marina Green.

Potomac was in a good spot as always, with Fort Mason in the background.

Massive vapor cone, and pulling a wake too! Those close by Ft Mason all the way to Pier 39 got a really great view of it!

Line abreast loop is always a pretty sight.

The Potomac looking majestic in the late afternoon light. The Blues actually delayed their show for an hour to give the fog a chance to clear. Was really a nice thing to do, as it would have been painful to have to cancel for yet another year due to the dreaded fog!

Opposing pass while inverted.

The lead solo is actually really nice and low here, as he starts to pull up in the Opposing Pitch Up.

Yeah, yeah - missed the opposing plane in the frame - But cool vapor nevertheless!

Piece of the Barrel Roll Break. A little softer light on Sunday, due to the later start.

Section High Alpha Pass, with the Potomac.

Fog off the GGB, always a nail biter for the show.

Breaking overhead after flying over from behind.

How did they do that!? Like a pair of scissors!

Oh, wonderous vapor!

The Blues line up with the Berkeley Hills, and assorted big ships (Golden Bear, Delta Linsey, California Hornblower).

Looking very futuristic, the solos pass to rejoin.

Another shot of the Potomac on a different day - with a Blues solo behind it starting its opposing pass.

A nice closeups of the #7 two seater from Friday - when I was on a boat!

I think it's the solos pass to rejoin, from the other side!

Start of the diamond dirty loop.

Dirty Loop with the Coit tower!

6 ship diamond overhead.

Blues with the fireboat Phoenix.

Pretty low pass by the #7 jet.

Go Giants! Which incidentally won the World Series this year!

You know, I really would like to try shooting from the tops of those buildings one of these days!

The Blues can really cover a lot of sky!

Aquatic park is always crowded, and so are the buildings and streets behind it!

One of the more spectacular looking moves is the loop cross break.

They split up, and go in different directions... a half cuban 8...

...then rejoin at show center!

Coming up behind Alcatraz, the Blues line up for their last breaks of the show.

No where is the Delta Breakout as nice looking. with the Rock!

The signature last pass of the Blues.

Always looks good with the Golden Gate Bridge!

Normally, would be the Delta Pitch up and land - but can't see that part from the Bay; only at SFO!

View from the Tug. Thanks for the show!!

There was the added bonus (or traffic nightmare if you will) of the America's Cup this year, at the same time as Fleet Week! Somehow, everyone managed - so no big drama.

This somewhat dramatic shot of the Bay Bridge was taken as our boat returned to Alameda. Thus ends another installment of the BZ Fleet Week pics. Hope you enjoyed the pics as much as I did!

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