EL CENTRO – U.S. Navy Slot Lt. Andy Talbott knew he wanted to be a part of the United States military and learn how to fly airplanes, but it was during his teenage years while attending a Blue Angel’s air show that becoming a pilot in the Blue Angels became his passion and mission in life.
“The first time I saw the Blue Angels, at that moment I realized I wanted to do something in my life,” said Talbott. “I always wanted to fly and be in the military, so I put two and two together and continued on to fly in the military. With time, the opportunity arose and I applied and was very blessed to be picked up for this position (Blue Angels pilot).”
The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach while inspiring the youth.
“I was 16 years old watching the Blue Angels fly and it inspired me to do something with my life and that is what we are here to do,” Talbott said. “Not only do we represent the Marines and sailors around the world, but we inspire young individuals to go out and do something, whether it be flying, becoming a doctor or just doing something with their lives.”
This year, the Blue Angels flight team is celebrating the 70th anniversary since the group’s inception in 1946. They have performed for more than 484 million fans.
“It is truly an honor and blessing to be here representing the 700,000 Marines and sailors that are afar and deployed at this time, and to be performing during our 70th anniversary,” said Talbott.
Talbott joined the Blue Angels in September 2014 and has accumulated more than 2,300 flight hours and 335 carrier-arrested landings. His decorations include a Strike Flight Air Medal, four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and various personal and unit awards.
Talbott began flying at the age of 16, and has been flying in the Navy for a total of 10 years. Currently 33 years old, he is married and has a two-year old son, Noah, and another on the way.
“Sometimes it’s hard being away from my family, but my wife normally joins me for one-third of the shows,” Talbott said. “My son is always playing with jets and every time he hears a jet, he says ‘Daddy’.”
Talbott says it would be an honor if his son Noah became a pilot and admits he will have will to wait and see.
Navy pilots are required to work out six days a week to stay in shape and be able to combat the g-forces experienced during flight. Additionally, a flight doctor challenges them to eat healthy and eat lots of meats, vegetables, with a minimum of sugar and carbs.
“We have strict diets, but we are just like everybody else and eat normal food. Once in a while, someone will walk in with lots of sweets just to tease us,” said Talbott.
According to Talbott, the best part of being a pilot is the rush and excitement, as well as being a role model to society, showing the Navy’s mission, inspiring the youth and creating a spark while also giving back to the community.
“If I can make a difference in one individual’s life, I will call that a success,” he said.
Throughout the year, the Blue Angels perform 70 different air shows in 35 cities. The pilots are away from their homes 300 days out of the year, and get two weeks off, Easter week and a week in August.
The Blue Angels are based out of Pensacola, FL, however, while they have numerous training facilities, they do not have the same open air space as the Valley. The Blue Angels refer to El Centro as their winter home, and it provides a great place to practice since Imperial County offers clear skies and beautiful weather for their training needs.
“We are very thankful to everyone to allow us to come here to the city of El Centro. The locals are amazing. Everybody in this town is truly nice and very welcoming and go out of their way for us,” Talbott said.
The Blue Angels’ schedule includes training 10 weeks out of the year from January through March in Imperial County, with 15 flights per week, equaling 18-20 hours per week.
“Training is fantastic and very successful and we have a lot to learn here and could not do it without the lowest ranked enlisted sailor or Marine to the highest ranked, ‘the boss,’” said Talbott.
Talbott is called the “slot pilot” or dead center pilot in the six aircraft Delta Formation, and he said they must trust the other pilots and maintain focus while flying.
“My favorite maneuvers are the take-off maneuvers like the Half Squirrel or the Double Farvel. That’s when we roll upside down, which was also the hardest to learn this year,” he said.
According to Talbott, a pilot must have an open mind to learn, and be motivated and disciplined every day.
“Definitely, important skills are having an open mind to learning, to touch lives and be motivated and have discipline every single day, whether it’s going to class in elementary school, college or just showing up to work every single day and giving 100 percent, no matter what you are doing… as a father, husband, employee and even on the Blue Angels,” said Talbott.
During his stay, Talbott said he enjoyed eating at the Broken Yolk, Lucky’s Chinese Restaurant and his ultimate favorite, La Fonda Mexican Restaurant.
For a full biography of Lt. Andy Talbott visit: www.blueangels.navy.mil/team/officers.aspx