August 20, 2009
You might have the right stuff to be a Blue Angel pilot: a computer and a broadband connection. That’s what the Virtual Blue Angels use to fly formation and dazzle online crowds.
Established five years ago by former (and real) Marine Corps pilot Bob “Kato” Tyler, currently the number four (slot) virtual pilot, and former Virtual boss Jeremy “Alias” Keelin, who has moved on, the Virtual Blues are a group of Blue Angels enthusiasts sprinkled across the U.S., along with one pilot in Australia and a female pilot in Canada. They form up and fly formation online with a simulation software called Lock On: Flaming Cliffs, modified with a proprietary Blue Angels twist. They hosted the real U.S. Navy Blue Angels when they were in Davenport, Iowa, last June for a real performance. Davenport is the home of Nathan “Rhino” Truninger, currently flying the number one Virtual aircraft and a member since 2006. There, the real pilots sat with the Virtual ones and tried their hands at putting the Virtual F/A-18s through their paces. No ejections recorded.
Turns out there can be fringe bennies to being a Virtual Blue: some Virtual guys were recently treated to a wild ride on Fat Albert, the C-130 that tours with the real Blues, hauling their ground crews and supplies and performing its own routine at each airshow. Fat Albert’s pretty agile with the help of JATO (Jet-Assisted Take-Off) units, which are actually solid rocket motors strapped onto its flanks.
So, if you think you’re worthy, apply. It’s not even a job, it’s a joint venture. (Not quite. The Virtuals are an LLC, entirely independent of the U.S. Navy.)
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