Hey, hey, hey … it’s Fat Albert, in the skies over Seattle: We’re not talking about the jumbo-sized character created by comedian Bill Cosby back in the day, but the C-130T transport plane that’s back in its place among the Navy’s Blue Angels for Seafair Weekend’s Boeing Air Show.
Fat Albert may not be as sleek as the six F/A-18 Hornets that will be executing fancy aerobatic moves over Lake Washington this weekend. But as far as Marine Maj. Mark Montgomery is concerned, that just means there’s more to love.
“These planes are kind of like a pickup truck,” said Montgomery, who pilots Fat Albert as it travels from air show to air show. “They do everything, and they’re very reliable.”
That’s not to say they’re always trouble-free: Unfortunately, Fat Albert was grounded along with most of the rest of the Navy and Marine C-130 fleets last year in the wake of a fatal KC-130T crash over Mississippi. Inspectors identified a propeller problem that took nearly a year to repair throughout the fleets. The fixed-up Fat Albert finally returned to the skies in July.
The plane carries 40 people associated with the Blue Angels team, along with 30,000 pounds of gear. “Anyone that can’t get in a jet, we take them to every show site,” Montgomery said.
Fat Albert’s return to service means an aerial demonstration of the C-130 Hercules’ capabilities is once again part of the Blue Angels’ act. “They can get low. They can avoid enemy radar. They can do low-altitude ingress and egress, and we demonstrate that at each air show,” Montgomery said.
The F-18s show off a completely different set of capabilities, including precision maneuvers that bring the jets’ wingtips as little as 18 inches away from each other.
Each pilot serves a two-year tour on the Blue Angels team, and then returns to the workaday world of military aviation. This is the first year for Cmdr. Eric Doyle, who was recently selected as the squadron’s flight leader.
Doyle told GeekWire that he’s already impressed by the reception he and his teammates are receiving in Seattle. Seeing a retired Blue Angels F-18 on display in front of Seattle’s Museum of Flight gave him a warm feeling. “It means a lot to us to come here and see that spirit,” he said.
Seafair’s air show will offer much more than the Blue Angels: The lineup also includes military planes such as the A-10 Thunderbolt Warthog, the P-51 Mustang Warbird, the PBY Catalina (also known as the “flying boat”) and a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, plus aerobatic stunt planes. On Sunday, Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 jet will make its Seafair debut.
Ground Zero for the Seafair spectacular is Stan Sayres Memorial Park and Genesee Park, on the shore of Lake Washington, but Montgomery said the lake provides a wide stage to see the show. “Here in Seattle, we have a big area around the show site, so there’s about anywhere you can go to watch it. The air show looks good from every angle,” he said. That includes the Seward Park neighborhood to the west of the lake, and Mercer Island to the east.
For safety reasons, Interstate 90’s floating bridge will be closed to traffic when the Blue Angels take to the air, from 12:55 to 2:45 p.m. PT Friday through Sunday. Ramps onto I-90 may be shut down as early as 90 minutes prior to bridge closure. But don’t worry about being marooned: State Route 520’s floating bridge will remain open to traffic.
Lake Washington also provides the watery racetrack for Seafair’s traditional hydroplane boat races. There’ll be three full days of activity at Stan Sayres, with the gates opening at 8 a.m. PT on each day. H1 Unlimited qualifying rounds begin at 4:55 p.m. Friday. Competitive heats start on Saturday at 5:40 p.m. There’ll be a long final day of racing on Sunday, with heats starting at 11:10 a.m.
Seafair’s big finish will be aired on KONG-TV and streamed on KING5.com starting at 3 p.m. For a minute-by-minute schedule, plus background on the teams and drivers to watch, the best resource is the H1 Unlimited mobile app.
All this activity means there’ll be lots of noise reverberating around Lake Washington over the weekend. Studies have shown that hydroplane boats can get as loud as 108 decibels, and the noise from a jet engine can go as high as an ear-damaging 140 decibels. So if you’re close to the show, bring your earplugs.
If you’re looking for different kinds of entertainment, consider the Seattle Art Fair at CenturyLink Field Event Center. Or tour one of the U.S. and Canadian naval vessels at Piers 69 and 90. Or just say “No” to loud boats and “Yes” to loud music at Friday’s free Concert at the Mural at Seattle Center, featuring Tacocat, The Coathangers and Snuff Redux.