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Blue Angels, airshow pilots arrive for Wings Over North Georgia

ROME, Ga. — The thrust of the Navy’s Blue Angels broke the silence of autumn across north Georgia on Thursday as the squadron of six jets arrived for this weekend’s sixth annual Wings Over North Georgia Airshow.

The squadron’s blue and gold jets pierced the late morning blue sky at 400 m.p.h. as they arrived above the Richard Russell Regional Airport. As if to say hello to airshow officials and media on the ground, the six F/A-18 Hornets went smoke-on as their popular delta formation soared over the airfield.

Following the overhead pass, each aircraft pealed off one after another to follow their Boss, Blue Angel 1 Captain Ryan Bernacchi, in to land one at a time. This will be the Blues Angels first performance at Wings Over North Georgia.

Lead by Capt. Bernacchi, Angels 2 thru 6 pilots include LT Damon Kroes, LCDR Nate Scott, LCDR Lance Bass, CDR Frank Weisser, and LT Tyler Davies, who make up the delta formation. The Blue Angels airshow narrator, LT Brandon Hempler, arrived on Wednesday, and it will be his job to explain the many flight formations on Saturday and Sunday.

CDR Weisser and LT Davies — both natives of metro Atlanta — are the two solos, and will push the F/A-18 to near Mach 1 during their demonstrations this weekend. Each pilot will also give the airshow crowds several moments of heart-stopping exhilaration during their demo.

“I’m excited — this is the airshow I’ve been looking forward to all year,” Angel 5 pilot Commander Weisser told this aerospace journalist minutes following the teams arrival into Rome. “It will be nice to catch up with old friends and to let them see what we do; and to let our family come in and be apart of this show, and to share it with north Georgia. The minute we landed it feels like home.”

In one month, CDR Weisser will depart the Blues to return to fleet after serving the last 15 months in place of a fallen Blue Angels pilot, Capt. Jeff “Kooch” Kuss. A Blues pilot in 2008 to 2010, CDR Weisser reflected on what his second tour of service with the Blues has meant to him.

“I feel like this squadron is better than when I left it in 2010,” he began. “This tour for me has never been about me, it’s been about Kooch the whole time. I am here flying his jet, flying his show, and doing the best I can to honor him, so, it’s been a rewarding year for me to be here.”

As the pilots prepare to fly this weekend, it will be the sole job of the Blue Angels maintenance team to prepare the jets for flight each morning. One maintainer who stays involved with the F/A-18’s the entire day also grew up in north Atlanta.

 

“When we come out and we open this jets and get them ready to fly, our number one thing is to have a awesome aircraft ready for the pilot when he gets in,” said AM2 Demaude Prescott, who maintains the jet’s air frames and hydraulics. “We have a great relationship with our pilots. We talk to them and we know where they’re from. We shake hands every time we go up and every time they come back down. That — right there — is what gets me up every day.”

Performers also attending the Rome airshow will include the Smoke-n-Thunder Jet Car and Jet Truck team; Scott Yoak and his Quicksilver P-51D Mustang, Jim Tobul piloting his F4U Corsair aircraft, AeroShell Aerobatic Team, and seven-time aerobatic champion Rob Holland.

Remote parking lots will open at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and the airshow’s main gates will open to guests at 9:00 a.m. on both show days.

Single tickets remain available online for the Wings Over North Georgia Airshow, and will be available at the gate this weekend. Airshow management confirms that the special ticket packages have sold out.

(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)

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Charles A Atkeison is a long time aerospace journalist having covered both military and civilian aviation, plus 30 space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. He has produced multimedia aerospace content for CNN, London's Sky News, radio, print, and the web for twenty years. From flying with his father at age 5 to soaring as a VIP recently with the Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds, Charles continues to enjoy all aspects of flight.

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