By Caton Berry | DFW Newsflash | October 2019
Alliance Airport — The Fort Worth Alliance Airport presented the annual Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show, Oct. 19-20. In addition to watching fantastic aerial stunts, guests were able to climb inside military planes, participate in a ‘Top Gun’ themed flight simulator, and play an interactive VR game provided by the U.S. Navy.
Captain Eric Doyle flew with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the event’s featured flight team.
“It was airshows like this that first got me into flying,” Doyle said. “You’ve got the F-22s and F-16s. There are so many great performers this year. Things like this got me interested in flying when I was about five years old. Really, once I learned what flying was, I knew I wanted to do it.
“My dream of becoming a pilot was a growing passion throughout my whole life. It always bubbled up when I would see these air shows or any aviation in general. It was really military aviation that I wanted to be a part of.
“I’ve been flying in the Navy for 24 years, and I’ve been flying with the Blue Angels for 2 years. It’s really hard to beat the experiences I’ve had with the Blue Angels. The neat thing about this team is that we all come from the fleet, and we’ll go back to the fleet. We fly gray airplanes. That’s where we got our start. That’s how we leverage our training. We take all of that great training we got over in the Marine Corps, we bring that over here for a few years, and then we’ll go back and fly those planes again.
“The training process for these events is long,” Doyle said. “We start in the winter after the end of the season. We start training in November in Pensacola. We start learning the procedures and the profiles. Really, the meat of our training is in El Centro, California, and that’s where we start brining in the sets. They don’t always go perfectly, but it takes a lot of practice.
“I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve actually learned more about myself and people than I have about flying. A lot of it has to do with humility and ownership. Owning your mistakes and getting to the root of what the problem is. If you only make excuses, you’re never going to get any better, just be humble about it.”
Hunter Wollaston is a part of Maintenance Control for the Blue Angels.
“I’ve been with this team for three years,” Wollaston said. “It really is a full team effort. It takes us looking over the aircraft every time before it flies, and the pilots trust what we do. Normally, in the Navy, the pilots don’t do that. They’ll look over the planes for themselves, but these guys really trust us.
“I think we have the best maintenance team in the world. In the Navy, we fly the oldest jets. They have been around for a long time. The planes tend to act finicky sometimes.
“When working on these planes, we face new challenges every day. There is always a new gremlin on these planes. It’s kind of a learning experience. I don’t think many of us had worked on planes this old until we got here.
“My favorite part of working on these planes is the travel,” Wollaston said. “In the military, we get to travel around and see all of these different countries. With this team, I’ve gotten to go to states and cities I probably would never have gone to on my own. It’s really cool to be able to interact with your own country.”
U.S. Navy Chief Henry Valdez watched guests playing the interactive VR game and learning more about the Navy.
“We’re here to bring Navy awareness,” Valdez said. “We want to reach out to the public to give them an idea of what kind of jobs the Navy offers. We’re here to answer any questions they may have, and we also have this really good virtual reality game for them to play. The game gives players a good idea of what Navy Seals go through each and every day. We want to show guests a little more about what the Navy life really is.
“I love being able to look around and see all the different aircrafts and vendors on display. It’s been great talking to the people. This VR game has brought so many guests our way today, and it gives us the opportunity to tell guests about how the Navy has benefitted us, and how it can benefit their lives as well. The game really helps give the general public a basic idea of what the Navy goes through.
“I come from a really small town, so I like to reach out to people to see if they are interested in the Navy. I love telling them about how joining the Navy benefitted me, and how it led me to be successful. It’s a great way to let them know that if they want to this is what they can do as well to help them achieve their plans for success in the future.”