(Via Star Advertiser)
When it comes down to it, Navy Cmdr. Tom Frosch is really nothing more than a recruiter.
Only thing: His office is in the cockpit of a fighter jet, soaring at supersonic speeds, performing death-defying stunts and wowing crowds from coast to coast and around the world.
He is the leader of the Blue Angels, the Navy’s elite flight demonstration team that will perform this weekend in the skies over Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at the Wings Over the Pacific Air Show.
Frosch, the Blue Angels’ flight leader, knows well the recruiting power of an air show. The Michigan native was 6 years old when his father took him to his first air show at a National Guard base in Detroit.
“I was certainly wowed by what I saw,” he recalled. “It sticks in your head. It sparked an interest in aviation for me … And lo and behold, I was lucky enough to get here.”
Frosch and his Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornets will join the Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstration team and much more during the free show. Gates open at 10 a.m. and the event runs until 5:30 p.m. both days.
Officials said crowds of about 50,000 are expected each day.
“We’re expecting a great show,” Frosch said at Hickam before Thursday’s practice flight. “We’re excited to be in Hawaii. Wherever we go, it’s a tremendous opportunity to represent the Navy and the Marine Corps.”
In April 2013, the Blue Angels had its flying season curtailed due to forced spending cuts. This year, the team is flying at 39 locations.
Also planning to make a good impression this weekend is Capt. John Cummings, commander of the Air Force F-22 Raptor demonstration team. He has his own stories to tell about attending air shows.
As a child, he annually attended one of the nation’s largest air shows near his hometown of Appleton, Wis.
The fighter jets made a big impression on him.
After graduating from college, he worked on airplanes as an electrical engineer. But after Sept. 11, he decided he wanted to join the Air Force and fly for his country.
“It’s my dream job,” said Cummings, also a pilot and flight instructor based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. “The fact that I get to fly this airplane is awesome. It can do stuff no other airplane can do. And it’s a rush every single time.”
However, he said, his favorite part is at the end of the show, when he gets out of his aircraft, enters the crowd and talks to the youngsters — and their parents.
He tells them about the joy of flying the Raptor F-22, the Air Force’s newest fighter aircraft. Its combination of stealth, speed, maneuverability and integrated avionics represents an exponential leap in aerial warfighting capabilities, Cummings said.
Air Force Capt. Bernard Rapp said he prefers flying the heavy aircraft — and he will do just that this weekend as part of the C-17 Globemaster III Demonstration Team.
Rapp said he’s dreamed about flying big planes since small-kid time in Colorado, when he experienced several opportunities to visit airliner cockpits during his family’s travels. Of course, security restrictions mean you can’t do that anymore, he said, so the air show might be as close as most kids will get to the flying experience.
The big and lumbering C-17, a military transport jet, will demonstrate its high-speed passing and turning capabilities, slow-speed maneuvers and its relatively tight turning radius, said Capt. Justin M. Taylor, also on the C-17 team.
“While it’s a big plane, it still flies well and is pretty maneuverable,” Taylor said.
The Navy’s parachute team, Leap Frogs, will launch the air show with a flag jump during the opening ceremony at 11 a.m. The Blue Angels will perform in the late afternoon.