Blue Angels: A-4 Skyhawk

Naval Air Facility
El Centro, California
Images captured with Vivitar 220/SL film camera.

Lt. Nile Kraft, 4/28/47 – 2/22/77, Blue Angel #6

High Flight
By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds
– and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Copyright © In Pics and Words

14 thoughts on “Blue Angels: A-4 Skyhawk

  1. It is so rare we get to see these brilliant men, usually we just see their aircraft and the magic they create with it. Enjoyed the poem, too. A wonderful close-up look at the Blue Angels, thank you, David.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jet, for appreciating the sense of these photos. Their performance in the sky is amazing, but the Blue Angels are more than just the shiny jets that make spectators go “wow”.

      There are 100 men and women (Sailors and Marines) that keep the planes in the air. Crowds at remote shows don’t get to see the ground display. In San Francisco, for example, they fly out of Oakland to perform over the bay, but spectators miss out on the personal side of the demonstration.

      The pilots are the first to say that without the Blue Angels ground crew there would be no demonstration. For a really up-close and personal look at the team, check out this video from winter training at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California (March 2018).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hundreds of snowbirds come down to the Imperial Valley to enjoy the warm winters and watch the Blue Angels train. I remember when I used to be the only photographer out at the hay bales taking pictures. Now, there’s quite a crowd that gathers at the end of the runway.

      MKBLUES1 is a YouTube channel (linked below) by a guy named Mike who comes down with his wife Kathy to film every day of training.

      Mike and Kathy are very dedicated. They’ve been doing this for years. When Mike’s mother passed away last year the Blue Angels sent flowers to her funeral.

      Winter training attracts a lot of RVers and photographers — if you ever have a mind to make the adventurous trip.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Debbie, there are nice motels in El Centro, or you might hookup at one of the local RV parks. I would recommend Sunbeam Lake, or Rio Bend RV & Golf Resort. They are located just south of the Navy base. The annual Blue Angels Fun Run is from Sunbeam to Blue Angels Park.

          Yuma is one hour to the east and San Diego one hour to the west. In Yuma, I recommend visiting the Territorial Prison where they housed some of the most notorious Old West desperadoes; and San Diego is a world class destination. The Salton Sea is an hour to the north and nearby the iconic Slab City and Salvation Mountain.

          You can’t miss the historic Desert View Tower. A side trip to Mexicali is an option, but the Imperial Valley has the best Mexican food.

          Keep in mind that the RV parks fill up quickly and advanced reservations are required.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Debbie, I should also advise you that the best time to watch the Blue Angels train is February through early March. In January, the team practices out at Shade Tree which is a military reservation in the desert.

          Shade Tree attracts a number of RVers who like camping in the desert. It is a live bombing range and restricted area so you definitely don’t want to wander around at night.

          (Lt. Nile Kraft, pictured in my blog post, was killed in a training accident out at Shade Tree, and Prince William trained there with his RAF squadron. General Patton’s tank corps practiced their desert maneuvers here in preparation for the North African campaign against Rommel’s Tiger tanks in WWII.)

          In late January, the Blue Angels begin their OTF’s (over-the-field practices) where they simulate an actual air show over the base. They’ll fly two or three practices a day so there are lots of opportunities to see them.

          One day in February is set aside as Spring Photocall when photographers are invited on base to watch a practice demonstration from the flightline.

          The Blue Angels Fun Run/Walk/Bike is scheduled for February 23rd.

          The Entertainment & Food Festival (a free event) is scheduled for March 15th. Fireworks over the runway are spectacular.

          The 2019 air show season begins March 16th with an Open House and public demonstration.

          On the last Saturday practice before the air show the team comes out to the hay bales to greet the fans as seen in the video I posted in the comments section.

          People who hang out at the end of the runway are called hay balers. Local farmers didn’t stack the bales last year because of liability. Photographers climb all over them to get that perfect shot.

          That should give you enough information to decide if you want to make the trip.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you for the wonderful pictures and High Flight. Nile was my cousin and I try to keep his memory alive. All these pilots put their lives in more danger than the public knows. Every single gle member of The Blues past and present are amazing. Thanks again.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahh, so nice to find and even more dedicated fan than me! I write about the Blue Angels a lot in my blog. I have no where near the expertise you have, but a lifetime of personal experiences! The Angels figure so big in our lives that they were a highlight of an Epic Family Roots Road trip we took my son and grandsons on in 2017. We camped at the Blue Angels Campground and spent a special time touring the Naval facility in Pensacola.

    If you’d like to read about them from another perspective, check out

    So glad you dropped by my blog so I could read yours!!



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s