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The Blue Angels – Feel-Good Patriotism

When I was growing up in the Pacific Northwest, every year there was the Seafair Festival in Seattle. Two staples of the fair were the hydroplane races and the airshow featuring the famed Blue Angels. Even if my family couldn’t go in person, we always watched the show on television. Seafair celebrates their 75th anniversary this year. I can think of no better time for the release of the new film, The Blue Angels.

This feature documentary about the Blue Angels is coming to Amazon Prime on May 23rd. But since it was filmed for IMAX, it might be even better to catch it in IMAX theaters beginning May 17th.

The Blue Angels follows the 2022 season for this elite group of Navy and Marine Corps men and women. There are over 3,000 Navy fighter pilots at any given time, but only six of them are set apart for the privilege of flying with the Blue Angels. The road to flying in their demonstrations, however, is anything but easy.

We meet Captain Brian “Boss” Kesselring, commander of the squadron. One of his main challenges is training the two new pilots joining the Angles for the season. Of the 141 men and women who make up the squadron, a third of them are reassigned to the fleet each year, so there are always new people coming in and some going out. The rotation of personnel makes life as a Blue Angel challenging, but all the members agree that the reward is worth the challenge.

Screenshot from “The Blue Angels.”  © 2024 Amazon Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Their season begins in January in El Centro, CA for winter training. There, they begin to coalesce as a new group, design their airshows for the season and practice, practice, practice.

One of the amazing things about this film is the camera work. Besides gaining insight to what goes on behind the scenes of a Blue Angels season, viewers are invited into the cockpit with the pilots and can experience what they see, including the famed diamond formation where the four F-18’s can fly so close to each other that sometimes they’re only twelve inches apart.

The six F-18 pilots are only the front men for a whole team of people who make a Blue Angels season possible. There are the crews that maintain and inspect the planes. There is the flight surgeon, a doctor in charge of safety all around. There are the event planners and coordinators. There are the public affairs people responsible for taking video and photos and keeping up with social media and the face of the Blue Angels for the public. There are supply officers who make sure that everyone has what they need. There are the C-130 pilots and crew that get all the gear and people to where they need to be. In other words, the demonstration pilots couldn’t do what they do without a whole team of people behind them.

The two new pilots for the 2022 season are Lt. Scott “Jamammy” Goossens and Lt. Chris “Cheese” Kapuschansky. Not only do they have to adjust to the group but also to being away from their families for months at a time. Some of the pilots described their season as being like a rock band tour, moving from place to place for eight months out of the year. When they are at their home base in Pensacola, FL, their families rejoice to have them home.

Screenshot from “The Blue Angels.”  © 2024 Amazon Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In Kesselring’s office there’s a special painting of the 28 men who have died during their service as Blue Angels, including the most recent, USMC pilot Jeffery Kuss, who died in 2016 during a practice demonstration. The pilots are acutely aware of how dangerous their flying can be and look at every practice flight under a microscope, discussing every move of each pilot in order to be as safe as possible while demonstrating the precision flying of Navy and Marine Corps pilots.

When detailing the process of selecting new pilots, it is revealed that the first woman to become a Blue Angel demonstration pilot was chosen for the 2023 season, Lt. Amanda Lee. Now the six front men are no longer just men, but men and women, all of whom are proud to serve their country as Blue Angels. “Once a Blue Angel, always a Blue Angel.”

Screenshot from “The Blue Angels.”  © 2024 Amazon Studios. All Rights Reserved.

At a time when presidential election rhetoric is increasing in our country, the story The Blue Angels film tells brings a breath of fresh air into an often contentious political atmosphere. The Blue Angels is something we can all rally around and feel good about our patriotism, no matter where we fall politically.

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