Military drills kick off Fleet Week festivities


Civilians were brought to Moffett by special delivery of two Marine helicopters, which landed in the city's Outer Sunset along the shores of Lake Merced. The choppers are all about carrying heavy loads of personnel and gear, whether in military conflict or on a humanitarian mission.

That's the same story for an amphibious Navy hovercraft which landed on San Francisco's Ocean Beach Wednesday morning. It was carrying heavy equipment that could help the city recover after an earthquake or tsunami. Some may call it an engineering marvel based upon the size of it, and how much it can carry over sea and land on a cushion of air. It certainly impressed San Francisco's mayor as it came ashore at Ocean Beach Wednesday morning.

"I am very surprised at the size of it; the ability to carry emergency equipment from trucks to generators and all the things that we might absolutely need," Mayor Ed Lee said.

The layman's term for it is a hovercraft, but Navy officials will tell you it is technically called a Landing Craft Air Cushion, or LCAC. They brought it to Ocean Beach as part of Fleet Week, to showcase the fact that the Navy can move combat or humanitarian supplies from a ship to the beach very quickly.

"It travels at 40-50 MPH on the water, whereas most vessels travel 5 to 10 MPH on the water," U.S. Navy Commander Chris Nelson said. The other advantage is the amount it can carry. Consider what it can do compared to a helicopter. "Depending on the type of vehicle, between seven and 12 vehicles can fit on a landing craft whereas most helicopters can lift only one maybe two vehicles at a time," Nelson said.

An example of what it can move to shore -- a mobile ER and surgical center which the Marines have used in combat in places such as Afghanistan and to help in places like Haiti.

"We have a 98 percent success survivability rate if somebody were to come through these doors," U.S. Navy Captain James Letexier said. "We want the American people to see what we do on a daily basis in a wartime situation."

The mobile hospital will be on display in San Francisco on the Marina Green.

Blue Angels guest of honor

A national aviation hero from the Bay Area helped kick off this year's Fleet Week celebration in San Francisco. U.S. Airways Captain "Sully" Sullenberger was the guest of honor on Blue Angel Number 7.

In 2009 the Danville pilot safely landed a damaged U.S. Airways jet in New York's Hudson River. The event is now known as "Miracle on the Hudson."

Captain Sully says it's been 32 years since he was in a fighter jet and that the experience was even better than he remembers, "The G forces are really intense, we got to just over six times the normal force of gravity on your body, and very suddenly it's a high onset rate."

The Hero of the Hudson also shared his experience with the next generation of aviators. Members of the Young Eagles program were on hand and had the opportunity to meet Blue Angels pilots.

The rest of the Blue Angels will begin practice flights over the Bay starting Thursday at 1 p.m.

America's Cup practice

America's Cup racing teams were on the San Francisco Bay Wednesday at 4 p.m. 11 teams held qualifying rounds for the America's Cup World Series competition that runs Thursday through Sunday.

The best viewing is from the America's Cup Village at the Marina Green in San Francisco. The village opened Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Weekend events

Other large-scale events this weekend include two Giants playoff games, a 49ers game, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, the Castro Street Fair and the Italian Heritage parade.

It's threatening to be a major traffic headache, and city officials are urging people to take public transportation, bike, or walk.

No matter which event you go to, we want to see how you're spending the week. Email your photos and video to or upload to

Click here for a list of this weekend's events and traffic information to help you get around.

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