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FILE -- The Blue Angels fly during a practice session for the Fleet Week air show in San Francisco, Calif. on Friday, Oct. 9, 2009. The air show is scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-4:00 pm. Drivers not heading to San Francisco this weekend may want to stay off freeways leading to the city as it is hosting several events, including the Presidents Cup golf tournament, Fleet Week, a 49ers home game and the start of the Oracle Open World Conference at the Moscone Center, which has more than 5,000 participants. Three streets are closed near the golf tournament: Skyline Boulevard between the Great Highway and Lake Merced Boulevard, Hearst Road between two sections of Skyline, and westbound John Muir Drive between Lake Merced Drive and Skyline. All three closures will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sunday. Sunday afternoon, Columbus Avenue in North Beach will be closed to traffic for the Italian Heritage Columbus Day Parade. During the Oracle conference, Howard Street between Third and Fourth streets also will be shut to traffic. (Dean Coppola/Staff)

OAKLAND -- The Blue Angels are back and bringing green company.

Fleet Week, an annual event that has been held for decades in the Bay Area, begins Thursday and runs through Monday, with all the attendant ships setting sail, hoisting anchor or otherwise setting off to their next stop.

The traditional Blue Angels stunt flights are on tap, but promoters are touting a new feature. The USS Makin Island, dubbed the Navy's hybrid ship, is the world's most environmentally friendly military vessel, Fleet Week spokesman David Perry said. The ship is the U.S. military's first hybrid vessel, according to Perry.

Perry compared the ship to a hybrid car, in that it uses two modes of propulsion. A traditional gas-powered turbine engine can run the ship at any achievable speed, but it loses fuel efficiency at less than 12 knots. An electrically powered auxiliary motor, however, can pick up the slack at 12 knots and below, Perry said.

The big crowd pleasers are the aerial stunt shows, and Lt. Colonel John Klatt, an Iraq war veteran and pilot in the Air Guard's Aerobatic Team, said he will be flying the event for the first time.

"I'll be flying a Panzl: a handcrafted, aerobatic airplane, built to fly extreme, unlimited aerobatics at low levels," he said.

After flying out of Oakland, he said, "I'll be right there around Alcatraz."


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"When we start the show, I'll be diving down at a 45-degree dive angle from about 4,000 feet, beginning snap rolls, which is a violent roll to the right, at 500 feet above the water."

Then, Klatt said, "I do a series of 21 aerobatic figures: a knife edge spin, and a maneuver called a torque roll where the plane actually flies backward."

The torque roll is done, he said, by pulling the plane into a 90-degree, straight-up angle, then rolling to the left until eventually gravity takes over and the airplane wants to come backward.

Fleet Week also will feature numerous musical performances and opportunities to meet the pilots, captains, crews and other military men and women who attend.

"For me, this is a grass-roots level program to deliver message about all the great benefits the Air Guard has to offer," Klatt said, citing college benefits and world travel.

Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.

IF YOU GO
  • What: Fleet Week, featuring numerous flight and musical performances, meet-and-greet events and military exhibits
  • When: Thursday through Monday
  • Where: Around San Francisco Bay, including at San Francisco's Marina Green and Pier 39, Alameda's USS Hornet and Oakland's Chabot Space & Science Center
  • Tickets: Mostly free, though VIP passes are available at www.fleetweek.us or by calling 805-684-0155, ext. 46.