My big fat Blue Angels flight (pictures)

At Fleet Week in San Francisco, CNET goes for a wild ride on the Blue Angels' support plane, a C-130 known as Fat Albert.

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
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The Blue Angels in Oakland

The Blue Angels lined up on the tarmac in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, October 10, 2014, in preparation for their annual weekend performance as part of San Francisco's Fleet Week celebration. CNET photographer James Martin hitched a ride on the Blue Angels' support plane, a C-130 named Fat Albert. The aircraft may be chubby, but it gives an intense ride. You can read his blog about the experience here. For more photos, click ahead.

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The Blue Angels F/A-18s were parked in Oakland prior to San Francisco's Fleet Week celebration.

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Front view of F/A 18

The Blue Angels currently have 13 jets: two single-seat F/A-18 A models, one F/A-18 B model, eight single-seat F/A-18 C models and two double-seated F/A-18 D models.

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Jet engines

During air shows, the fastest speed the Blue Angels reach is about 700 mph, just under Mach 1.

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Preflight check

CNET photographer James Martin was the only nonmilitary member to fly with the Blue Angels' "Fat Albert Airlines" on the Friday prior to the Blue Angels' weekend shows for Fleet Week. The 10 other riders were all members of the military. The "airline" is named after Fat Albert, the C-130 that follows the Angels from show to show, carrying support crew and gear. You'll see it shortly.

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Walk to the aircraft

Walking past the Blue Angels F/A 18s out onto the tarmac in Oakland.

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Fat Albert Airlines

Here's Fat Albert, the lesser-known Blue Angels plane, which accompanies the stunt fliers to their performances. It's a C-130 tactical transport.

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C-130 Fat Albert

The C-130 known as Fat Albert, is a tactical transport aircraft built by Lockheed Martin and is flown by an all-Marine crew consisting of three pilots and five enlisted aircrew.

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Blue Angels' Fat Albert

The Blue Angels' C-130 known as Fat Albert.

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Rolls-Royce turbo props

Fat Albert is powered by four Rolls-Royce turbo prop engines producing more than 18,000 horsepower.

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Full view of Fat Albert

The Fat Albert crew and those about to take a ride stand at the rear of the aircraft prior to departure.

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Side view of Fat Albert

A side view of Fat Albert showing the Blue Angels logo on the tail.

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Hey, hey, hey

The tail section of Fat Albert showing the Blue Angels logo.

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United States Marines

Under Fat Albert's wing, it reads United States Marines.

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Flight crew preps

Prior to departure, the flight crew, headed by Major Aaron Herrell, runs through the flight demonstration sequence.

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On board

Stepping aboard Fat Albert, with its bare-bones interior optimized for utility.

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Flying over the Bay Bridge

Yerba Buena Island (foreground), Treasure Island, and the Bay Bridge's western (left) and new eastern spans, along with the still-being-dismantled old eastern span.

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Looking down on the Bay Bridge

As Fat Albert flies out over the bay toward San Francisco, those aboard can look nearly straight down on the Bay Bridge.

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Downtown San Francisco

Over the bay, and above San Francisco's Financial District.

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Sutro Tower

Sutro Tower pokes up through the marine fog layer that often hovers on the city's western fringes.

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Looking north

Looking north toward Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay and Marin County in the distance.

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Midair selfie

Two crew members snap a selfie with the bay door open, looking onto the fog below.

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Straight down to the city

At times, Fat Albert banked so hard the ground filled the windows.

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Straight down to the water

At other times, Fat Albert made 60 degree bank-turns over the water.

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San Francisco

Beautiful views of San Francisco from out over the bay.

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Strange views

Sometimes the plane banked so crazily that the view out the window didn't seem right. Here, the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island.

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Steep climbs ended with a few seconds of weightlessness at the apex, when the crew -- and anything else not strapped down -- floated.

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Strange angles

During the wild roller-coaster  flight demo, those aboard experienced uncommon views.

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Marina Green fly-by

Flying low over the water past the spectators on San Francisco's Marina Green, just east of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Low flying

At times, Fat Albert fly very close to the ground and just a few hundred feet from buildings.

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A view of the city

A beautiful day for a flight over San Francisco.

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A view of the intersection of interstate 80 and highway 101.

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Transbay Terminal construction

A view from above of the under-construction of the massive Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco.

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Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge that connects San Francisco to Oakland, Berkeley and other East Bay locations.

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View of Alameda

A view of the island city of Alameda in the foreground, with Oakland in the background.

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Back in Oakland

The beautiful fog layer over the western fringes of the city was too much for the F-18s -- they were grounded. So for the tens of thousands of casual spectators around the bay, trying to catch a glimpse of the Blue Angles before their weekend shows, Fat Albert was the main event.

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Group photo

As Fat Albert landed, the Blue Angels themselves were headed back to the airport, touching down just moments later.

The passengers and crew of "Fat Albert Airlines" pose for a group photo as the Blue Angels zip by overhead.

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