Jets to fly by Tetons
By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.
July 24, 2007
The Blue Angels, the famous U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron of F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters, will dip low over Jackson Hole on Wednesday and fly past the Tetons to be photographed, an airport official said Monday.
Seven Blue Angel jets will zoom from south to north accompanied by a chase airplane with a photographer at 11:50 a.m., said Ray Bishop, manager of the Jackson Hole Airport. The squadron, based in Pensacola, Fla., is on its way to Bozeman, Mont., for a weekend air show.
“They’ll probably come down as if they were going to land,” Bishop said. He said the pilots would then climb as they fly past the Tetons for their photograph.
“Probably between 9,000 and 10,000 feet is where they’ll get the best pictures,” Bishop said.
Jackson Hole resident and retired Air Force pilot Walt Farmer said he’d go out to photograph the squad. But the prospect of eight jets roaring past the mountains in Grand Teton National Park upset at least one conservationist, who called the exercise inappropriate.
“The first thing that jumps out is the noise,” said Louise Lasley, public lands director for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. “It just seems not only inappropriate but a needless thing to do for just a photo opportunity.”
Farmer called the chance to see the jets “kind of neat.”
“I imagine the flight of the Blue Angels making one or two passes isn’t that big a deal,” he said. “I’m going to go out there and get some pictures.”
The airport, in Grand Teton National park, is at about 6,400 feet elevation and 10 miles south of the 13,770-foot-high Grand Teton. It operates under a permit from the National Park Service that stipulates that the airport board will keep planes using the strip from flying within 2,000 feet of ground level while in the park except when landing or taking off. The rule is enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration.
A Blue Angels officer was told about worries concerning jet noise echoing through Teton canyons and “was very gracious about it,” said Grand Teton National Park management assistant Gary Pollock.
“I don’t think they’re going to burn off the engines,” he said. “They’re not doing an air show.”
Bishop said he expects the squad to make one south-to-north pass. They would be in the valley “less than 20 minutes,” he said.
The Blue Angels are a recruiting tool for the Navy and Marines. Their trademark blue and yellow jets fly close-formation routines. They have been flying in various aircraft since the end of World War II.