It's not often that the U.S. government goes all out to entertain its citizens, but that's more or less what happened over the weekend when the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels zoomed over the Golden Gate as part of Fleet Week.
The squadron doesn't go into combat -- individual pilots might when on other assignments -- and the Navy considers the show part of its recruitment efforts.
Many Californians love the aerial display, judging from tweets like this one by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:
Beautiful day for Blue Angels and the Americas Cup. Bay Area....how lucky are we?
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) October 6, 2012
On the other hand, so many people hate the booming and roaring of the jets that the outgoing message of the information line for the event starts by inviting people to leave noise complaints.
So in this era of budget cutting, it seemed a fair question to ask how much tax payers laid out for the spectacle. "I have no idea," said Mary Hickey, a public relations contractor hired to handle calls from the news media by the Airshow Network, a private company handling the crowds. The Navy's press office didn't return our calls.
The Finance Department, however, published this document showing that the Navy budgeted $39 million for the Blue Angels in 2012. Traveling around the country, the squadron planned to put on shows for 69 days in 2012.
Hickey said the Airshow Network estimates that about 1 million people watched the Blue Angels, not only at Marina Green but also standing on rooftops and everywhere else they could glimpse the sky.
Watching the Angels was free for anyone with a view of the sky. And the money collected for a seat on the viewing stand ($15 to $195) in Marina Green, along with concessions sales and sponsorship, went to pay for portable toilets, trash pickup, fencing and other logistics, Hickey said.
The Navy pays to buy the jets, fill them with fuel, train the pilots, etc. If a million people watch two-day shows that cost about a $1 million each, that works out to something in the neighborhood of $1 per audience member.
Worth it? Let us know your opinion.