While he wouldn’t necessarily think he qualifies as a “geek,” U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan Chamberlain will certainly be performing for plenty of them when he and his team of Blue Angels fly high over Seattle in the annual Boeing Seafair Air Show this weekend.
The 31-year-old pilot out of Bloomington, Ill., who serves as lead solo and operations officer, said coming back to the Pacific Northwest is a highlight for the celebrated aviation group.
“We know the Pacific Northwest has their challenges with weather throughout the year, but the fact that we get to come for probably the best couple weeks of the season is certainly great for us. Beautiful country up here,” Chamberlain said Thursday from Boeing Field. “When we came in from Anchorage the other day you could see almost 100 miles, the mountains were all over. It was absolutely gorgeous. We’re so excited to fly here for the next few days and we look forward to this show every single year.”
Chamberlain went to school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation management in 2003. He worked for the airlines for two years after college before he decided, on a whim, to put his application in for officer candidate school.
“Ten years later here I am,” he said. And being part of the Blue Angels is “not something you’re just going to jump in and go do and fly 18 inches from somebody” as Chamberlain mentioned the many flight hours he’s spent perfecting his skills.
Chamberlain, who joined the Blue Angels in September 2012, has accumulated more than 2,200 flight hours and 300 carrier-arrested landings, according to his bio. His decorations include two Strike Flight Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and various personal and unit awards.
The Blue Angels will perform over Lake Washington on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Lt. Chamberlain:
What do you do, and why do you do it? “I love aviation, I love flying and I love serving my country. It’s a humble opportunity and to be able to travel around the country and tell the story of the Navy and Marine Corps is something that I absolutely love every minute of it.”
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “The misconception with the Blue Angels is that we are different people, or maybe what some people would say is the ‘best of the best,’ and that’s not the case. We are normal Navy and Marine Corps aviators, support officers, enlisted troops that come to this team, work together as a team to accomplish one mission. So we are no different than anybody else out there wearing a green flight suit our working off the deck of an aircraft carrier. In fact we all came from there and as soon as we’re done with this team we’re all gonna go back to that.”
Where do you find your inspiration? “From the fans and the kids. When you see what you do day in and day out — and it does become a bit of a grind — but when you see the excitement on kids’ faces and how excited people can be to watch you perform and to watch you showcase naval aviation, that keeps ya going, every day.”
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “Certainly we couldn’t do our job without the F-18 Hornet, but it seems like nowadays the cell phone and communication is what keeps this train on the tracks.”
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “I do like my workspace. I would have a pretty good argument with folks and say that I probably have the best office in the world being in the Blue Angel No. 5 jet, so I have no issues with my workspace whatsoever.”
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life? (Help us out, we need it.) “Staying ahead of the game. Obviously there’s a lot of things that go on with the Blue Angels as we travel around the country. We do 35 shows a year in 35 different cities. That’s very dynamic, but by working together as a team and making sure that everybody’s looking out for one another we make sure that we accomplish our mission.”
Mac, Windows or Linux? “I’ve never done Linux, but I do have a Mac and I do have Windows. So, both.”
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Oof. I’m gonna go with Kirk.”
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “I think a time machine would be pretty cool, personally.”
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “That’s a good question. Do you know anybody with a million dollars? Probably something tech oriented because that’s where everything’s going nowadays.”
Maverick, Goose or Ice Man? “Maverick. I just think Maverick is everybody’s favorite in that movie.”
Favorite flying movie? “I don’t think I have one.”
Favorite app: “Right now it’s probably ForeFlight, which we use to travel with. It’s an aviation app.”
Weirdest site you’ve seen from the air? “I don’t think I’ve seen a weirdest — the most beautiful though is certainly Seattle is up on the top of the list; Anchorage was gorgeous. Nothing strikes me as weird.”
What’s your jet pilot nickname? “My call sign is Droopy. When I showed up to the fleet that’s what the guys called me and it’s stuck ever since then.”
Would you pilot a spacecraft to Mars? “I don’t know if I’m smart enough to do that. I would probably do it if I knew that it was going to be alright. That’s not necessarily something that I’ve always thought about. I’m not into the space exploration as much as some.
GeekWire’s Alan Boyle contributed to this report.