NAVAL AVIATION NEWS
Part 2 of 6
Published in the June 1976 Issue of Naval Aviation News
They race toward each other, treetop high, seemingly bent on mutual annihilation. Lt. Denny Sapp calls, "Hit it!" and, at the last instant, he and Lt. John Miller execute "yug" maneuvers, roll their Skyhawks 90 degrees and whip. Canopy to canopy, safely by one another. They quickly roll back level and whisk away. The knife edge pass is complete.
But what's a yug? It's an abrupt nose-up pull on the stick followed by enough neutral stick to establish a zero G load on the plane. This causes the aircraft to fly through an abbreviated ballistic path.
Like all of the Blues, the solos practice high and loose in the initial stages of training. Progressively they tighten up and move closer to the earth.
"It may look hairy," admits Miller, "but that knife edge pass is one or the easier things we do." Among those things are the back-to-back roll, the inverted pass and, new this year, the tuck over break. In that one, the pair fly along a flight line which parallels the crowd in section, inverted. They then roll 270 degrees into the breakup for landing. It's pretty to see.
As lead solo, Sapp helps groom Miller for the latter's job as Number Six. Sapp flew that position last year.
He explains, "If, after working our way down from 2,000 feet to, say, 500 feet and then, for one reason or another, we scare ourselves, we'll go back to altitude, loosen up and start all over again."
Sapp is quick to assert, "Blue Angels are not stunt pilots and we do not do stunt flying. Ours are well calculated flight maneuvers which have been pre-planned with total regard for safety. John and I have our own sides of the flight line and know, absolutely, that we're not going to hit each other on one of the crossing events."
In the first portion of an air show, Five and Six keep the crowd humming in between diamond formation events. During the final half, they convert the diamond into a delta.
What are the most difficult items on their agenda?
"They all take practice," claims Miller, "but getting the timing down and going inverted without displacing the aircraft from its track are stiff challenges."
Their eyesight must be extraordinarily good. Can you imagine bearing down, nose-to-nose toward a friend in a speck-like Skyhawk, with a closure speed of around 700 knots?
Whoosh! Or should we say - Whew!