Hemet High grad debuts with Blue Angels on Saturday

Cordill is an experienced fighter pilot who flew in support of ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was very serious flying, with the focus on completing missions successfully and efficiently. Last fall, he was accepted as a member of the elite and wildly popular Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. He’s practiced loops and rolls this winter in El Centro, the Blue Angels’ version of spring training, and now is ready for a rigorous schedule that includes another Southern California appearance during the big Miramar Air Show Oct. 12-14 in San Diego.
He said those pre-game jitters suddenly are coming back to him as he prepares for Saturday’s performance. “I had the same feeling before the games,” he said. “I missed that. I get to experience that again.”
Cordill, at age 31, has experienced a lot since he began dreaming of flying after watching a Blue Angels documentary on the History Channel as a child. He graduated in 2002 with a degree in aeronautical science from the Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology at Saint Louis University. While at the school, he considered the military for a flying career. After the 9/11 attacks, he was certain he wanted be a Marine.
He liked the Marine way of sending pilots through the same platoon training program as the ground troops. He said it built an understanding of what they do when he flies in their support. He was glad to live with the troops in Afghanistan, where he flew air strikes during their missions on the ground, because he felt a bond and better understood what they were doing.
When he was back in the States following his last tour of duty, he re- alized he had enough hours to apply for a coveted Blue Angels position. He submitted an application, spent time with the team at its briefings and was accepted.
He served on the ground for the final six weeks of the Blue Angels shows last fall to become accustomed to their demanding schedule. The team typically performs at a show every weekend and spends weekdays training at its base in Pensacola, Fla.
Besides the Blue Angels’ dramatic flights in formation and solo acrobatics, they serve as a public-relations team. He said he especially looks forward to speaking on Fridays at high schools in the towns they visit.
He said many of the maneuvers he’ll perform are similar to techniques he learned in flight school and employed during missions. “In flight school, we learn the basic maneuvers,” he said. “We take them to a whole different level.”
His job is to fly the No. 3 jet in the left wing position of formations. He precisely mirrors the flight of the No. 2 wing jet to his right. He said the trust Blue Angels pilots have in each other to properly fly in tight formations is crucial.
“This flying is incredible, some of the most challenging flying I’ve ever done,” he said. “It is very unique flying in close formation.”
He said Blue Angels typically are on the team for two or three years. When he’s finished, he plans to return to flying military missions in support of ground troops. “That was the mission I signed up to do,” he said.
My whining was heard. The pair of Diamond Valley Lake bald eagles, which were not included in organized bird counts over the winter, will have their chance to be numbered Saturday. In the final Forest Service-organized count of the season at lakes across the Inland region, a hunt for the Diamond Valley eagles by volunteers will be included.
“We seem them daily,” said Matt Thompson, assistant manager of the Diamond Valley Lake Marina. “We pretty much know where they hang out.”
Reach Bob Pratte at 951-763-3452, bpratte@pe.com  
or 3400 Wentworth Drive, Hemet CA 92545.
And follow Bob on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PE.BobPratte and Twitter: @bpratte
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