Growlers, helicopter fly over Seahawks game

Contributed photo
An MH-60S Knighthawk, attached to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, carries the National Ensign over Century Link Field in Seattle after the national anthem at the NFC Championship game Jan. 18.

Pilots and staff from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station had a bird’s-eye view of the Legion of Boom last month before the Seawawks’ epic win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.

“It was amazing,” said Lt. Cole Heller, pilot of the MH-60 Seahawk helicopter that flew over Century Link Field. “A pretty rare experience for a helicopter.

“It was something else.”

Heller said the timing of the flyer, which included two EA-18G Growlers and the Seahawk, couldn’t have been  timed better as the three aircraft flew right over the Hawk’s Nest just as the fireworks stopped.

“You could hear the crowd get way louder,” said Heller, a Whidbey Island native and lifelong Seahawks fan.

Although he grew up and attended college in Florida, Growler pilot Lt. Matt O’Donnell has been a long-time Mariners fan because of Ken Griffey Jr. and other Seattle baseball legends. By extension, O’Donnell said he’s always loved Seattle and all its teams.

“I’ve visited Seattle over the years and I’ve always loved this city,” O’Donnell said. “Even when it’s gloomy Seattle weather, I love it.”

Now stationed at NAS Whidbey, O’Donnell can be now participate as a full-blown Seahawks fan.

The flyover, he said, was “a little nerve-wracking” because of Seattle’s busy airspace and eye-level skyscrapers.

Ultimately, O’Donnell said the maneuvers are something they do every day and were completed successfully.

“Overall it was very cool,” O’Donnell said. “It was a great way to show the community and the nation what we can do up here.”

Well-known for it’s 110-plus decibel levels, the Growler may have given the crowd noise a run for its money. Crowd levels have been recorded as high as 137.6 decibels, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Seahawks fan base took the Guinness World Record for crowd noise in December 2013 in a game against the New Orleans Saints with a crowd of 68,387 contributing to the effort. The title is now held by Kansas City Chiefs fans, who broke the record in September with a reading of 142.2 decibels.

On game day, the Growler orbited overwater between Bainbridge Island and Seattle at low altitude for approximately 20 minutes prior to overflying Century Link Field for the start of the game.

Routing was coordinated with Seattle Air Traffic Control and the FAA to avoid interfering with air traffic into SeaTac and Boeing Airfield. All three aircraft were piloted by sailors stationed at NAS Whidbey.

The Growlers hail from two different Electronic Attack Squadrons, VAQ-130s Zappers and the Patriots of VAQ-140. NAS Whidbey Island is the home base for all of the U.S. military operational Growlers, the U.S. military’s primary electronic attack jet aircraft.

The Seahawk helicopter is from NAS Whidbey Island’s Search and Rescue unit, which conducted 35 rescue, medical evacuation and search missions that saved 47 lives in the local area last year.