“It’s Friday, March 26th, 2021, over Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, where the winds are 220 at 3, 10 miles viz, few at 25,000 [feet],” begins Commander Brian Kesselring, the Flight Leader and Commanding Officer of the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the famed Blue Angels, as he commences a pre-mission briefing with his six-pilot team. Already, Kesselring’s voice is sharp, professional, to the point. As his briefing continues, his voice becomes more animated, going through his radio calls exactly as he would in the air as he immerses himself and his team in what has to be the ultimate preparation for the flight ahead. It is this almost meditative ritual that has helped keep the Blue Angels at the absolute pinnacle of their profession for so many years.
In a video recently posted on Twitter, we can experience edited portions of a rarely seen and very intimate Blue Angels pre-show briefing, ahead of a practice display at their home station. Kesselring sits with the blue-and-gold flight-suited team around a large table in the Ready Room at the team’s Pensacola headquarters on the beautiful coastline of the Florida Panhandle. What follows makes for remarkable viewing.
The pilots draw their respective show patterns on printed-out satellite images of the show venue as they mentally rehearse how Kesselring will lead them around the routine. Kesselring talks them through the moves, and each team member familiarizes themselves with his radio calls, often with their eyes closed, each with their hands simulating how they would be flying each maneuver.