The U.S. Navy was in San Francisco last weekend, helping the city celebrate Fleet Week. By chance, I was also there.
I have nothing against any city having a Fleet Week. We have ‘em here in New York, too. But there’s a bit of a difference. In New York we’ve seen what an airplane crashing into a building can do, not only on 9-11 (over 3,000 innocent Amerians dead), but also as far back as 1960 when two passengers airplanes collided in mid-air over the city, taking out an entire city block and leaving 134 passengers and earthbound Brooklynites dead.
I was a newspaper reporter at the time of the Brooklyn air disaster. I personally watched a father tearfully announce to a press conference in a Brooklyn hospital that his 11-year old son, Stephen Baltz, who had originally and miraculously survived the initial crash, had succumbed to burns some hours later. It was a heartbreaking lesson on exactly why tightly spaced aircraft and residential spaces don’t mix. Not ever.
So you can imagine how extraordinarily infuriated I was last weekend when, on a trip to San Francisco, I was walking down a street when four tightly spaced jet aircraft suddenly roared above a residential street at low altitude and formidably high speed.
People jumped. A woman in a car screamed. Some held their ears to prevent damage from the outrageously loud noise. And this kept going on, hours at a time.
It was the “Blue Angels” air show, and for what I suppose was a laugh they were buzzing San Francisco. They did it Saturday. They did it Sunday. I hear they also did it Monday.
Photographic evidence of gross irresponsibility
Take a look at the photographs above. I shot them from the corner of Fillmore and Pine Streets on Sunday afternoon. In the first picture, you can see a squadron of four navy planes in tight formation flying over San Francisco homes and office buildings.
The second picture is of the vapor trail they left – a 360-degree loop-de-loop. The peril to the lives of San Franisco’s inhabitants was beyond irresponsible.
Yes, I know the Blue Angels are supposed to be America’s best young pilots. I know their planes are ship-shape. As they used to say about potential oil spills before “BP” became a household curse word, a disaster couldn’t possibly happen.
Except that we all know the “impossible” is also inevitable when it comes to technology developing glitches. Sooner or later something will go wrong – a millisecond of pilot disorientation, an unforeseen mechanical failure, a stray bird that isn’t supposed to be there getting sucked into a jet intake.
When that happens, scores, hundreds or perhaps even thousands of innocent bystanders will be dead, the property damage will be horrendous, and Navy and city officials will be quick to absolve themselves of blame.
Guaranteed: some hapless junior officer will get screwed
In the end, some poor junior officer will catch a court martial, taking the rap for the big navy brass, who will then head for the officers’ club and treat themselves to a stiff drink for getting away with yet another totally irresponsible idea that destroyed lives and property.
Shame on the Navy brass who allow these demonstrations over American cities and think risking American lives for a bit of "show biz" is a great idea. And shame on Mayor Gavin Newsome of San Francisco for not demanding that the Navy fly boys immediately pick up their toys and fly the hell out of his town.