On May 2, necks tilted up to see the display zooming in the sky over Atlanta, compared to the trendy virtual Zooming that has become the norm these days.
During the Blue Angel aviation flight show, the precision team flew to honor first responders, essential, frontline and medical workers as a salute of goodwill for their heroic efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An added touch of pride was Navy Lt. Cmdr. Cary Rickoff in No. 6 position. Rickoff is the son of Dr. Bruce and Olga Rickoff. Mom Olga recalled, “For his bar mitzvah gift, Cary wanted flying lessons. He was always an adventure seeker. Then my cousin Eliot Arnovitz took him flying in his private plane. That did it!” Dad Bruce echoed, “Off he went to Duke University on an ROTC scholarship with the intent of flying and becoming an officer. Now he flies F/A-18 Super Hornets.”
The Blue Angels began at the end of World War II, when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Chester Nimitz ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to keep the public interested in naval aviation. This Navy Flight Exhibition Team performed its first flight demonstration in June 1946, at their home base, Jacksonville, Fla. Today Rickoff is stationed out of Pensacola, Fla., which coincidentally is Dad Bruce’s hometown.
The team was introduced as the Blue Angels at a show in Omaha, Neb., in July 1946. Alongside the Blue Angels May 2 was the Air Force Thunderbirds division; and both teams flew over Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., that same day.
Lt. Cmdr. Rickoff, who graduated from Riverwood High School in 2005, lettered in baseball. After graduating from Duke with a bachelor of arts in biological anthropology and anatomy in 2009, he earned his commission as an ensign in the U.S. Navy and joined the Blue Angels in September 2018. He has accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours. His decorations include a Strike/ Flight Air Medal, three Navy and Marine Corps achievement medals, and other awards.
His father said, “Cary’s term in the Blue Angels is three years. Last year he was the Blue Angel narrator, explaining the mission to the media. … He was always very focused as a young boy, good in sports.”
It’s not all about the show. Rickoff was deployed to the Middle East, including Syria. Olga recalled, “He always kept us in good communication by saying, ‘don’t go by what you hear on the news. I’m fine.’ As he stayed in touch by satellitte phone.”
On May 2, NBC Nightly News “America Strong” featured Rickoff with special attention to his sister-in-law Lauren Kent Rickoff, physicians assistant at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, treating in-patient cardiology, hematology and COVID-19 patients. “The Blue Angels shout-out to my coworkers was heartwarming. The fact that the [flyover] show started at Wellstar was an ‘excellent coincidence. In terms of the NBC News segment, the response has been overwhelming!”
Olga noted, “He’s always gone for death-defying adventures, and that’s how he eats. At all kinds of restaurants, he will order five obscure dishes. And then he takes pictures of his food to send to us!” Lauren added, “He’s single and would make a very good catch for someone. He’s a fun-loving guy dedicated to what he is doing, and an all-around good man who cares very much about his family.”
Bruce joked, “Cary may ultimately end up as a commerical pilot. He will have to get used to not doing loops and turning the plane upside down.”
The family watched the air show together at the Ga. 400 Northridge Road overpass near Dunwoody.