A show to highlight sky and sea

The familiar roar of the Blue Angels will once again boom through The City this weekend as the 27th annual Fleet Week celebration rolls, floats and zooms into town.

The event, highlighted by the sometimes-controversial aerial showby the Navy’s precision fliers, will be smaller this year than last, due to the active deployments of naval ships. This year will see a total of eight ships, including two from the U.S. Navy, two from the U.S. Coast Guard and four from the Canadian navy.

Fleet Week Vice Chairman Dwayne Osland said the decline in the size of the parade is normal and that previous years have been even smaller.

“We’re not reading anything into it,” he said.

This year’s celebration comes on the heels of an effort by some in City Hall to ban the Blue Angels from flying over San Francisco. Supervisor Chris Daly introduced a resolution that cited safety reasons in calling for the ban, but the resolution was defeated by a 7-3 vote on Sept. 11.

“Not only is [Fleet Week] a great event for the public to observe, it benefits the community economically,” Osland said. “There’s a long-standing tradition and the Blue Angels, in particular are an important part of that.”

It is also a recruiting event for the Navy.

“We do see somewhat of a surge in young men and women that will walk into recruiting stations [after Fleet Week],” Chief Petty Officer Jim Keys, a local recruiter, said. “But really, our primary focus is just to bring the Blue Angels and Navy sailors to the city of San Francisco and showcase the superb job that they do.”

Keys speculated that “a couple hundred” people would request more information from recruitment booths.

Fleet Week organizers estimate an average crowd size of about 1.2 million on and around the Bay, Osland said. That includes those in small boats, those watching from the Golden Gate Bridge and other vantage points, and the crowd at the San Francisco waterfront.

The San Francisco Police Department will be providing security on land, while the U.S. Coast Guard will patrol the Bay. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition will provide valet parkingfor those who ride bicycles to the event.

In addition to the smaller parade of ships, this year’s air show will be somewhat smaller because of the lack of the Red Bull Air Race. That traveling event took place in San Francisco last year and in 2005 but has since moved on. Osland said organizers would try to bring the race back in future years.

Two father-son duos will be part of the aerial shows this year. Stunt pilot John Piggott will control the Sukhoi aerobatic plane just before his son, Capt. Russ Piggott, flies with a team of Air Force F-16s. Also, longtime Fleet Week staple Sean Tucker will fly the Oracle biplane solo, then again with a team that will include his son, Eric Tucker. There will also be a fly-by with an F-16 cruising on the wing of a World-War II-era P-51 Mustang fighter.

Fleet Week schedule

Today

» 1-4:30 p.m.: Aerial demonstrations; Blue Angels practice

» 6-7 p.m.: First Marine Division band concert. Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St.

» 8:30 p.m.: Fireworks at Pier 3

Saturday

» Noon-1 p.m.: Parade of Fleet Week ships

» 1-4:30 p.m.: Aerial demonstrations with Blue Angels

» 4-7 p.m.: Pier 39 Fleet Week celebration

» 7:30 p.m.:Meet the Blue Angels, Pier 39

» 8:30 p.m.: Fireworks at Pier 3

Sunday

» 1-5 p.m.: Aerial demonstrations with Blue Angels

» Noon-4 p.m.: Tour of naval ships

» 12:30-3:30 p.m.: Italian Heritage Day parade from Fisherman’s Wharf to North Beach

» 4-7 p.m.: Fleet Week celebration at Pier 39

Monday

» Noon-4 p.m.: Tour of naval ships

amartin@examiner.com

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