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Pilotcast is the podcast for pilots, by pilots.  Join Pilot Tiffany, Pilot Kent, and Pilot Bill for interesting discussions and interviews, some news or industry coverage, and a whole lot of fun virtual hangar flying.

May 11, 2006

Pilot Dan, Pilot Kent, and Pilot Mike interview the Flight Leader of the Blue Angels, Cmd. Stephen "Boss" Foley

Pilot Dan(L) and Pat Raycraft recording Pilotcast #33
  • We're also joined this episode by our first in-studio guest, Patrick Raycraft, a Photojournalist for the Hartford Courant and longtime friend of Boss Foley.
  • The first week of March, Pat was in El Centro, California, photographing the winter training of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
  • Pat was also lucky enough to get a flight in one of the F/A 18 Hornet jets used by the Blue Angels. He got almost 55 minutes in the cockpit. We've got a link to an amazing QuickTime video of parts of that flight, taken with a cockpit camera.
  • A short bio of Boss Foley
    Boss Foley
    • Commanding Officer of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron
    • Grew up in Charlestowm, Massachusetts
    • Graduated Hamilton College in 1984, with a degree in English
    • Commissioned through Aviation Officer Candidate School, Pensacola, Florida, in 1985
    • Designated a Naval Aviator, in September, 1985
    • Served aboard the USS Independence, in support of Operation Desert Shield
    • Graduated from U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, aka Top Gun, in 1991
    • Served as a Top Gun Instructor, flying the A-4, F-16, and F/A-18 Hornet
    • In 1998, he won the Michael G. Hoff, Attack Aviator of the Year Award
    • After 9/11, he deployed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and flew 48 missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom
    • An Honors graduate of the Naval War College
    • Assigned Flight Leader of the Blue Angels, in November, 2004
    • Has more than 5800 flight hours and 788 carrier landings
    • Several decorations and awards, including 2 for Distinguished Combat
    • Recently selected for promotion to Captain
Talking with Boss Foley:
  • Where does the title "Boss" come from?
    • Goes back to the early days of flight demonstrations where the flight leader is recognized as the Boss
    • As the first Naval Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels adopted the term for the flight leader of the team
    • The flight leaders of both the Thunderbirds and the Snowbirds are also referred to as Boss
    • Someone who is charge of an Air Show is known as the Air Boss
  • What does it take to become a Blue Angel?
    • The Blue Angels were formed in the mid-1940's, by Admiral Chester Nimitz, to promote the legacy of Naval Air Power
    • The primary purpose of today's Blue Angels is to reach out and bolster our military readiness through recruitment of young sailors and marines
    • To become a Blue Angel it only takes a typical Naval Fighter Pilot, or...
    • There are a host of Blue Angels with duties other than flying the aircraft, such as Public Affairs, Administration, Maintenance, Supply, and Aircraft Technician
    • The public seems to think of the Blue Angels as sleek blue jets and fighter pilots in blue flight suits, but they are much more than that
    • The Blue Angels are a collective representation of Naval Aviation
    • Members consider it a phenomenal opportunity to promote the legacy that has ben bestowed on them
    • Caveat: There are specific selection criteria including hours of flight time, experience, dedication, and commitment to the Naval core values
    • Pride, heritage, and legacy are all terms that are affiliated not only with the Blue Angels, but all the Naval Services
  • Talk a little about the Blue Angel Training Facility at El Centro, California
    • Each year, the season concludes in mid November and begins again, in earnest, in late November
    • There is a 50% turnover for officers, and a 30%-40% turnover for enlisted personnel
    • The Blue Angel Team consists of 110 personnel and 14 aircraft, including a C-130 known as "Fat Albert"
    • Because of the high turnover, there's a very rigorous training program, steeped in tradition
    • The training applies to all members of the team, not just the pilots
    • Training continues through the winter months, before embarking on an 8 month demonstration season, from mid March to mid November
    • El Centro is the training facility for the Blue Angels as well as many other Naval assets
    • The Angels chose El Centro because it provides a "sterile environment" for team personnel instead of the distracting family environment of Pensacola, Florida, with the goal to be completely in tune with each other by time the show circuit starts
    • Every aspect of how the Blue Angles conduct business is choreographed like the flying maneuvers, from maintenance to signing autographs
    • The desert of El Centro also provides phenomenal weather conditions for flight operations, during the winter
  • What's it like transitioning from an F/A-18 to a Cessna?
    • There aren't many pilots who have the time to do any Cessna flying
    • It's been a while since Boss Foley has done any GA flying
    • You need to ensure you are as qualified to fly a GA aircraft as you are flying a high powered combat aircraft
    • There are currently no GA enthusiasts on the Blue Angels Team
  • Even with 32000 lb. of thrust available, is it still possible to stall an F/A-18 with too much angle of attack?
    • The Boeing F/A-18 was originally developed by McDonald-Douglas
    • It's not easy to find another aircraft with the thrust to weight characteristics, maneuverability characteristics, weapons systems, and ergonomics of an F/A-18
    • The Hornet is exceptional in it's high angle of attack maneuverability capability and thrust to weight performance characteristics
  • Are those solid fuel JATOs (Jet-Assisted Take-Off) on Fat Albert?
    • Yes, they use solid fuel propellant
    • There are 3 Marine Corp. C-130 pilots on the team
    • The remaining support for Fat Albert is from 3 Marine Corp. officers and 3 Marine Corp. enlisted personnel
    • There's also Marine Corp. F/A-18 pilot on the team
    • As a Blue Angels pilot, seeing a Fat Albert takeoff is very exhilarating, because it's the only time we get to see our own demo
    • Just like any other maneuver, the team trains for the asymmetrical firing of the JATOs
  • At air shows, what is the relationship between the Blue Angels and the FAA?
    • The team of the Blue Angels and the FAA are all focused on the same issues, the primary one being safety for both the performers and the spectators
    • The groundwork for any show is laid many months in advance
    • Every airshow site has a list of very specific procedures, objectives, and milestones they need to work through to make the site appropriate for a jet demonstration team
    • Even though the FAA has further restricted the airspace around these airshows in the last few years, these were not triggered by 9/11 but rather by general safety concerns
    • Pilot Dan: General Aviation owes a huge debt to these demonstration shows because of the large crowds that attend and reminds them that this country created General Aviation and have a great tradition with it
  • What did it feel like the first time you were catapulted off an aircraft carrier?
    • The first was in 1985 in a T-2 Buckeye
    • We were mustered at 4:45 on a rainy morning, for our briefing
    • Had been training for the previous month, at Meridian, Mississippi
    • Lot's of butterflies in my stomach, at the briefing
    • After a weather delay, we took off, in formation, from the Naval Air Station, Key West, and headed for the carrier
    • The training is so rigorous, that the tasks tend to to become automatic
    • Carrier landings are very difficult, but the take-offs are relatively easy
    • Was screaming with exhilaration during that first take-off
    • Then you realize you got to make a landing if you want to do it again, and the training takes over
    • Carrier landings at night are a much more difficult, and never becomes routine
    • All of the Blue Angels members came from the operational force and will return to it when their tour with the Angels is complete
  • How do you counteract the G-forces involved with flying a high powered jet?
    • As a high powered jet fighter pilot you get accustomed to the G-forces, but there's also a very rigorous training program to prepare for those Gs
    • The training involves physical, mental, and physiological aspects
    • One of the best ways is to keep in good physical condition, with emphasis on anaerobics
    • Be well rested, well nourished, and well hydrated
    • Even as little as a couple of days of not being exposed to the G-forces can be enough for the onset of it's effects
    • G suits are not worn by the Blue Angels pilots
  • During a low level practice run in Chicago, Pilot Mike saw the jet pass so close to his office building, he was able to see the lightning bolts on the pilots helmet.
  • Do you make a conscious effort to delay your appearance after the previous act in order to make a big entrance?
    • The performance has been choreographed for the highest level of effect and to be entertaining
    • We want to make sure the spectators see what a team can do when they focus on dedication, teamwork, and hard work
    • Even though they put on an amazing show, we should remember it's the same kind of flying our operational forces are doing every day
  • Some final thoughts from Boss Foley
    • We are very blessed to be a part of the Blue Angels legacy
    • Those blessings are not just from the previous members of the team but from our fellow countrymen
    • My vision is that we are a team recognized for our excellence not only in flight demonstration, but for the public visits we make
    • Our official mission is to enhance the recruiting of our Naval Service, but we also need to be good samaritans and good citizens and demonstrate what one can achieve with with a high degree of scrutiny, preparation, dedication, teamwork, and a focus on what's good and right
    • Seeing some of the children attending our shows, I hope to inspire them to become good people and responsible, great Americans and great patriots
    • We all share that responsibility
  • Patrick's story will be running in the June 18th issue, of the NorthEast magazine, in the Hartford Courant
Cool images of the Blue Angels:

Close Close Close Close Close

If you're interested in finding out more about the Blue Angels:
  • Here's the official Blue Angels website
  • Steven "Force" Tupper does an online radio program, Airspeed Online. He recently aired an informative episode on the Blue Angels which we used as a resource for the interview with Boss Foley. Thanks, Steve! You can listen to it by clicking on the mp3 icon. mp3
  • For a great film on the principles of flight with amazing footage of The Blue Angels taken from the jets IN FLIGHT check out "The Magic of Flight" DVD from Amazon:

An extra added bonus:
  • For those of you who have been asking, here are some more Pilotcast crew images - of Pilot Mike during the recording of Pilotcast #33, and Pilot Mike and Pilot Kent in Madison, WI:
Pilot Mike recording Pilotcast #33 Pilot Mike and Pilot Kent
The larger versions of these images may be frightening to small children and to regular listeners, compared to the images they had in thier minds.

Contact us at by email:   pilotcast (AT)

Song: "Angels and Aeroplanes" by Peter James  Music on the Pilotcast is from the Podshow Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at

Pilotcast show notes are at
The Pilotcast THANKS "Pilot Bill" for the GREAT work on these show notes!

Copyright © 2006 The Pilotcast

almost thirteen years ago

Guys, I thought podcast 33 was incredible! Amazing interview with \"Boss\" Foley and it was great to hear the in cockpit audio (and video!) of the demo ride.

Keep up the great work, the pilotcast is skyrocketing!