During the Bay Area’s routinely beautiful days of Indian summer, the Blue Angels air show highlighting the U.S. Navy’s annual Fleet Week visit is a spectacular seasonal tradition. Nearly a million residents throng the waterfront and hillsides of San Francisco’s northern tip to see the precision aerobatic team of six Navy fighter pilots dive and loop over the Bay at speeds reaching 700 mph.
The event also bestows an additional $4 million on the local economy, delighting merchants as well as the public. When the Blue Angels did not perform in 2004, attendance and revenues both plunged by half.
Because the annual visit of the Blue Angels is such an eagerly awaited autumn tradition to so many, we welcome the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ solid 7-3 majority vote Tuesday night against a nonbinding but still controversial resolution to ground the Blue Angels during next week’s Fleet Week festivities and permanently thereafter.
As with so many other San Francisco issues, the Blue Angels flyover has drawn opposition. An ad hoc coalition of anti-war advocates, jet-noise-hating city residents and even some veterans citing post-traumatic stress disorder have long sought to ban the air show over local skies.
The latest campaign was spearheaded by ever-contentious Supervisor Chris Daly, whose key argument was that the fatal crash of a Blue Angels fighter during an April show in South Carolina persuaded him it was too dangerous to continue allowing the Navy aerobatic pilots to fly anywhere near where they might crash into a heavily populated neighborhood of San Francisco.</p>
This was at least a more sensible argument than the reflexively anti-military posturing that marked previous debates on the Blue Angels and similar issues, such as permanently berthing a retired warship as an Embarcadero visitor attraction or rejecting Fleet Week entirely.
Such ill-considered exercises have regularly embarrassed San Francisco before much of the nation. One municipal measure this newspaper could gladly support would be to ban the supervisors from wasting the public’s time voting on resolutions that take positions on national and international issues The City has absolutely no control over.
Regarding Blue Angels safety issues, it must be pointed out that all the high-risk stunts are carried out over the Bay and away from the bridges; and the Navy pilots are superbly trained volunteers who chose not to opt for desk jobs.
If The City somehow prohibited every large-scale activity that makes being here so uniquely attractive, our lives would surely be the poorer for it. Anyone who absolutely despises experiencing a few hours of daytime jet noise each year for the pleasure of millions might instead enjoy visiting the quiet nearby cemeteries of Colma.