The Sneakiest Pass of All Sneak Passes

Lt. Ben Walborn, lead solo pilot for the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, performs a sneak pass during a demonstration at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival. The Blue Angels performed in Battle Creek as part of the 2011 show season and in celebration of the Centennial of Naval Aviation. (Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Jen Blake)

The sneak pass is probably one of my most favorite maneuvers performed by the US Navy’s Blue Angels and the US Air Force’s Thunderbirds. Typically executed by the Number 5 Hornet (Lead Solo) with the Blues, it involves a high speed pass over unaware spectators who are busy trying to get a glimpse of the other jets off in the distance forming up. The pass can be as low as 50-100 feet, and generally reaches speeds of 700 miles per hour (for reference, the speed of sound is 768 mph). You don’t hear the roar of the engines until the jet’s already moving past you, and it tends to be a really thrilling, heart-pounding experience!


Now if you’re at an airshow and you know a thing or two about the Blue Angels and their routine, you’re probably going to expect the pass. It’ll still manage to surprise the heck outta you, but you’ll know it’s bound to happen at some point or the other. Indeed at the last airshow I was at featuring the Blues, an older gentleman with a radio and a Navy ballcap calmly told a few parents with small children standing next to me to cover their kids’ ears and handed out few sets of foam earplugs; the reason being that it was about to get real loud. Not even a minute later, the Lead Solo screamed above our heads. But if you’re on… let’s say, a shopping trip at a nearby mall or plaza on the day of the airshow, you’d more than likely be wetting yourself at the sound of the jet flying just above your heads with the throttles up. I can’t exactly say if the person filming the video or the people around did actually lose such control when the unexpected Number 5 ripped through the skies overhead, but I will say that it’s probably something they’ll never forget!

About Ian D'Costa (240 Articles)
Ian is the editor-in-chief of the Tactical Air Network. His work has been republished and quoted in a number of publications, including The Toronto Star, Airsoc, Business Insider and The Aviationist. You can reach him at

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