The annual aerial show by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels — a San Francisco tradition dating back to 1981 that pumps millions into the local economy —is running into opposition from three local peace advocacy groups that are calling for a permanent halt to the popular Fleet Week flyover.
CodePink, Global Exchange and Veterans for Peace, Chapter 69, are working with Supervisor Chris Daly on a Board of Supervisors resolution to address concerns over the Blue Angels.
Daly acknowledged he is considering a call to halt the flyovers because, he said, “they seem dangerous and unnecessary.” Daly said he plans on introducing the resolution as early as Tuesday, but is still drafting the language. A resolution is not legally binding, but states a board position.
The Blue Angels, a team of navy fighter pilots, fly over San Francisco during Fleet Week, which this year is scheduled for Oct. 4 through Oct. 9. For four of the six days, the flashy blue- and yellow-striped planes soar through the skies over the northern waterfront at speeds reaching 700 miles per hour, and perform such maneuvers as vertical rolls. As part of the show, six planes group together in tight formation to perform deft maneuvers.
The Blue Angels have 35 air shows scheduled in 2007 in various U.S. locations. Last year, more than 15 million people watched the fighter pilots. (Watch a short video of the 2006 air show in San Francisco.)
Veterans for Peace takes issue with the pro-military message and the recruiting efforts that come along with the annual visit as well as what it refers to as the “noise pollution.” The group calls the event a public safety risk, pointing to the April crash of a Blue Angels plane during an air show in Beaufort, S.C.
Just a slight miscalculation or a mechanical failure can cause a plane to “go barreling into the Golden Gate Bridge or a high-rise and cause a significant amount of damage,” said Paul Cox, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Veterans for Peace.
Edward Leonard, chairman of the San Francisco Fleet Week Committee, said that since the April plane crash, the Blue Angels are back flying and “we think it’s safe.” He added that the planes’ maneuvers require approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, the more challenging maneuvers are conducted over the Bay waters and that “commercial airlines fly over The City all the time.”
Fleet Week attracts about 1 million people to The City’s waterfront and sinks about $4 million into The City’s economy, according to Leonard. When the Blue Angels did not fly over San Francisco in 2004, attendance and revenue dropped by more than 50 percent, he said.
Leonard said Fleet Week comes with a variety of benefits, from boosting the local economy to providing people “a chance to say thanks for the people serving in the military now.”
CodePink has launched an online petition, signed by more than 500 people to date, calling on leaders to end the flyovers for reasons of public safety, air pollution and fuel waste.
Cox said the resolution would establish that city leaders and the public are not in support of having the Blue Angels.
“We can then take the next steps we have to legally stop them,” he said.
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