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Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow To Feature Top Aerobatic Aircraft

Photo: Charles A. Atkeison

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The final air show of the year for the Blue Angels, the GEICO Skytypers, and a few of the top aerobatic pilots will take place this week as they perform popular demonstrations above the airfield at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

The U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron will conclude their 71st season with their annual Homecoming Air Show at the Cradle of Naval Aviation. Great weather with cool temperatures is forecast for the two-day airshow which will take place at Forrest Sherman Field on Friday and Saturday.

Gates will open both days at 8:00 a.m. EDT, and the first flights will begin 90 minutes later. Tickets remain available online and will also be available at the gate.

In addition to the two daytime shows, a Friday evening air show will illuminate the airfield by the Skytypers, the Shockwave Jet Truck, and a jet-powered Waco bi-plane known as “Screamin’ Sasquatch”.

America’s Pride, the Blue Angels, will wrap Season 71

The Blue Angels six blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets will take-off around 2:00 p.m. each day to begin their flight demonstrations. The Diamond Team will split into a Delta and two solos minutes later as they perform nearly 30 maneuvers demonstrating the handling characteristics of the Navy’s Hornet aircraft. Stay alert for the solos’ famous sneak pass from behind the crowd.
Photo: Charles A. Atkeison

Homecoming for the Blue Angels will be the last public flight demonstrations with the squadron for three of its pilots. Boss and Angel 1 pilot Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi is returning to the fleet in a few weeks, and the Blues are welcoming Navy Cmdr. Eric Doyle as their new Boss for 2018-19.

The Blues also selected two new pilots in June to fly the sleek F/A-18 Hornets, Marine Maj. Jeffrey Mullins of Memphis, Tennessee, and Navy LT Andre Webb of Lawton, Oklahoma. Current pilots LT Lance Benson, who has served as Angel 4 for two seasons, and CDR Frank Weisser, who replaced fallen Blue Angel Capt. Jeff Kuss in August 2016, will both return to the fleet this month.

Maj. Mullins will fly in the Angel’s Diamond next season, while LT Webb, an F/A-18 instructor pilot, will serve as the Blue Angels new narrator and advance pilot.

GEICO Skytypers to Perform Three Warbird Demonstrations

The Pensacola airshow will also mark the final performances of 2017 for the world famous GEICO Skytypers. The squadron of six historic Navy SNJ-2 aircraft will demonstrate the same formation flying as the pilots of World War II and Korea, who took to the skies in the same aircraft to practice wartime aerial maneuvers 75 years ago.

Photo: Charles A. Atkeison

“The end of the year show is always bittersweet we are very happy to finish a safe and productive year flying for our fans,” Skytypers Flight Leader Larry Arken remarked on Tuesday. “It is also nice to take a break and start working on so many exciting opportunities that we have for 2018.”

The team will highlight a rare twilight airshow performing in both the diamond with two solos, and the delta formations. “A majority of the team’s pilots are former Naval aviators, so the show is a bit of a homecoming for the Skytypers as well,” Team spokesperson Brenda Little said from Pensacola.

The GEICO Skytypers spend their time at each airshow site visiting local hospitals and education centers with their public outreach program. The team also hosts student groups at the airshow for a candid discussion plane side, and offers them the chance to climb aboard their historic aircraft.

The civilian aviation team, whose history dates back to the 1970’s, is concluding its 11th anniversary season as the GEICO Skytypers.

The John Klatt Air Shows powerful “Screamin’ Sasquatch” jet engine Waco bi-plane will showcase its worth, powered by over 4,000 pounds of thrust. The red aircraft piloted by Jeff Boerboon will take to the Gulf Coast skies performing aerobatic stunts which continues the stun the crowds.

Boerboon explained with a grin that the airshow crowd will hear a powerful jet engine and only see a red bi-plane; and they will continue to look around for another aircraft from where the jet engine sound is coming.

“It’s just a crazy airplane that we call cartoon aerobatics,” Boerboon said. “It’s a beefed up airplane and it’s doing things that bi-planes, or any planes, aren’t suppose to do. How many airplanes have you seen pull up to 1200 feet, stop on a vertical line, pierrot around in a torque roll and then accelerate to 80 m.p.h. going straight up? Never, never!”

Pilot Randy Ball and his popular Vietnam-era MiG-17F jet aircraft will perform over Sherman Field. Ball, who is concluding his 27th year performing in airshows, will maneuver his silver delta winged aircraft at near the speed of sound and pull nearly 8G’s as he follows the tactical performances of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Several static aircraft will be on display on the tarmac and inside the nearby Naval Aviation Museum. A special Kids’ Zone will be open through out the air show providing aviation themed slides and inflatable bounce attractions.

Photo: Charles A. Atkeison

(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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