Blue Angels Over San Francisco Bay: How Low Can You Go?

This awesome photo is of a US Navy Blue Angels jet flying low on the water of San Francisco Bay - check out the sonic boom (?) as the jet flies amidst sail boats.

Link - via Cellar Image of the Day (great discussion, including the invariable inevitable "photoshop!" allegation and more pics there)

When I've seen pictures of that effect in the past, I've heard that it's what happens when a plane passes the speed of sound (which is also what creates the sonic boom). I don't know if this is accurate, it's just what I've read/heard in the past.
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Cool, but definitely fake. I have been there every year and they don't go nearly that low, and they don't exceed the sound barrier during the show.
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been there for fleet week and seen them practice before 9/11. i saw them do daring things throughout the city, including close to the water. i cannot speak for this photo. watching them that week was amazing- and i heard several sonic booms then. i had not heard them since i was i a child--grew up near a nike missle base.
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That is the moment the aircraft crossed the sound barrier (explaination with this photo: but I would have to agree that that is a fake photo. Such a move even by the best trained puts too great a risk to the public.
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I was certain this was a photoshop job at first (for the same reason as Cluck) but I searched and found examples of them doing this over water with boats near the area. Other pictures I found did not look photoshopped, they just weren't that good.
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Could be real, could be fake, don't know for sure. One thing I do know is that there was a bit of controversy over the Blue Angels being in Fleet Week at all, some San Fran supervisor did not want them there because he felt they posed a safety risk to people on the ground and around the area. After that kind of unwanted attention, I highly doubt the Blue Angels would risk doing anything like this; to them it may be totally safe and as risk free as it can be but that doesn't mean it isn't any less dangerous than other maneuvers, and impressions are everything my friends.
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i saw the video of this, and the video look real.
although it did not create a sonic boom, would have shattered a lot of windows if it did. it did however create that vapor cone because it was flying about 25-50 ft above the water.
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It's not fake, I've seen numerous photos of this effect. And they DO fly that low - I know it seems crazy but I've watched them in person. The vapor cone effect CAN occur when breaking the sound barrier but ALSO occurs at lower speeds:

I love how ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN people are that this is fake when they really don't know for sure.
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Not fake and not breaking the sound barrier. The Blue Angels routinely fy close to the speed of sound very low as it generates a wake and small rooster tail over the water. What you see is the Prandtl-Glauert condensation cloud, something that you can see on any airplane at any altitude. It helps greatly if it is humid out, and if there is a fairly significant pressure differential, so you are likely to see it from military aircraft in a steep turn or at a high rate of speed, or from your local airliner coming in to land (with the flaps down). It also has a tendency to "flash" - appearing and disappearing very quickly.
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Kristian Twombly said what I woulda said if I wasn't being responsible and working and got here sooner.

It's probably a camera trick, but I don't think the plane should be flying that close to the boats. Other than that, the picture is 100% possible and doesn't have to be a fake.
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Not fake. The phrase I've heard used is a rooster tail, saw it from Aquatic Park near the Maritime Museum a couple of years ago, it is not sonic boom, it may be the condensation cloud, the way it was explained to me was the exhaust from the jet pushing the water down and making it spray back up. It wasn't supersonic when I saw them do it, in fact it seemed to be moving rather slowly.

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That is not a rooster tail, not even close to being one. Here is an example of a rooster tail:
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The first thing I was reminded of was when Richard
Ashby flew a military plane under a gondola cable
in Italy and killed 20 people when he miscalculated
slightly and his plane cut the cable.

A cool stunt at the expense of human life.

If the pilot of this plane lost control, even
a little bit, people in boats would be killed.

It isn't worth it.
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in the 50's and 60' there were missile bases throughout the country guarding key cities and vital areas--these missiles were called nike. they were capable of being armed with nuclear warheads. i live in northwest indiana.
the base 10 miles from me, did have nuclear capability. guarded the gary/east chicago steel works--vital to the country, plus the oil refrineries. also covered chicago.
if you know what you are looking for, you can find remains for 2-3 of them in chicago public parks. when the us closed the bases, they kept one open as a museum--in san fran--in the marin head lands---. took the tour , my hubby a geek, amazing how many were around us. mine finally going to me torn down for a subdivision--young people never believe when i tell them what it was, but we old timers still use it, when we give direction--it isn't tofar past the old nike base.
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Maybe you didn't read my comment. I was THERE. they DO NOT get this close to the deck. If they did, I'd be thrilled, but this photo is ridiculous. It shows the Angel clearly below the top of a tug boat, even if this angel was twice as high as in the photo, they STILL didn't get that low. There were coast guard boats in the channel that were taller than that tug. The issue is not whether the vapor is real, it may be, but the angels did not get this low, period.
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looks like its pretty figured out, i think its real but not a sonic boom, when planes fly from about mach .95-1.05 control surfaces so i doubt they would fly so low with pretty much no control. im pretty confident its real though. those things are amazing.
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I was at aquatic park for this years fleet week Blue Angels exhibition, the photo is real. I've seen the blue angels all over the country and this maneuver is a standard part of their routine. That being said, I think this was the lowest I'd ever seen it performed. Here's a video of the same pass as the photo.
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Oh yeah... looks real to me... the compression shock from the wing causes the water in the air to condense momentarily until the atmosphere rushes back in... and makes a cloud trailing the plane.

Here's another example from the web:

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Fake. The real thing was tried once before. This is what happened....
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Haha reading the responses from everyone on here makes me laugh so hard. There is one person on here that is right, i am a chemical engineer and an USAF pilot. This is not Photo shopped, It is not fake, It is not anything to do with breaking the sound barrier or the resulting sonic boom, it is approx 25ft above the water, it is not during the show, and there is an extremely simple explanation for THIS particular vapor cone. I, however, will not explain it because a very simple google search and less than 10 minutes of reading can inform anyone, who takes the time to read, how and why this phenomenon occurs. I ran across this forum while collecting pictures for a presentation and couldn't help but make a comment. Use your resources folks, thats why we have them.
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Listen people there wa no sonic boom. its against flight regutaions to fly that fast especially wit people around. another the photos is fake. look at the shadow. on top of that they cant fly that low cause u cant accuratly judge how far u are oof the water cause water constantly move. if so he would have to have made in flight adjustment that could save him or kill him. beside nothing i think below 1000 ft off the flight deck during a show over people or next to them. not if it was a runways then yea he could fly that low. peace.
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NOT PhotoShopped - Here is the Navy website stating date and place, and with additional photos of the same low sneak pass!!

051009-N-7559C-001 San Francisco, Calif. (Oct. 9, 2005) - The Navy's Flight Demonstration team, the Blue Angels lead solo, performs the sneak pass, a maneuver that demonstrates the F/A-18 Hornet's ability to sneak into a target area undetected at speeds approaching 700 mph. The Blue Angels perform more than 70 shows at 34 different locations throughout the country each year. U.S. Navy photo by PhotographerUs Mate 2nd Class Ryan Courtade (RELEASED)
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SKEPTICS !!! Check out all these photos from Fleet Week on San Francisco Bay. Some HIGH SPEED LOW PASS shots are here, too! Same place, different year...
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The photo looks legit, and there's no reason it shouldn't be. The vapor cloud around the jet is what is known as a Prandtl–Glauert singularity. A common misconception is that it appears only as an object passes the speed of sound. In point of fact, it can occur at subsonic speeds that are near the speed of sound. I've photographed it myself at military airshows where the jets did not break the sound barrier (no sonic boom). Here's more on the Prandtl–Glauert singularity:–Glauert_singularity

For video of this phenomenon (which looks a lot like the same fly-by that produced this photo), check out this link. It's ranked the #1 low fly-by, so you have to watch to the end:*
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