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Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow Connects the Past, Inspires the Future

The Navy's Blue Angels will close out their 2018 season this weekend in Pensacola. (Charles Atkeison)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The cradle of naval aviation will host the final air show of the year for the Blue Angels this week as they perform their popular demonstrations above the airfield at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

The Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron known as the Blue Angels will perform on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The team’s high-gloss blue and gold jets will perform nearly 31 high precision maneuvers to demonstrate the handling characteristics of the F/A-18 Hornet.

The Blue Angels Diamond Team includes “Boss” and newly promoted Captain Eric “Popeye” Doyle in Angel 1, LCDR Damon Kroes, Maj. Jeff Mullins, LCDR Nate Scott. The two solo pilots, LCDR Tyler Davies and LCDR Brandon Hempler, will push the envelope of their Hornets as they perform high speed passes near the speed of sound.

For a few of the pilots, this weekend will mark their final performances as the Blue Angels conclude their 72nd anniversary season. Kroes, Scott, and Davies will return to fleet in a few weeks as new faces join the Blues.

NAS Pensacola will host the Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow November 3 and 4. (Charles Atkeison)

Former Blue Angels lead solo pilot John “Gucci” Foley summed up on Wednesday what the annual Homecoming air show means to him. Foley, who served with the Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron between 1989 and 1991, feels this air show above any other is a very special one.

“It is a deep sense of purpose with a connection to something larger than self,” Gucci explained. “Homecoming is about connection, inspiration, and gratefulness; and to honor the current team and their families.”

Foley, who travels as a popular motivational and keynote speaker for corporate and private leadership, takes pride in watching his former squadron perform. Watching their practice this week, his face grinned often and he pointed skyward occasionally with insider comments as their six jets prepared for the special weekend.

“I encourage and draw joy from the newbies,” Foley added as he referenced the new Blue Angels pilots and team members. “I reconnect with past teammates — tradition never retires. This is why I’m glad to be here!”

Former Blue Angels pilot John Foley meets with current pilot Nate Scott on Wednesday. (Blue Angels)

The former pilot also reconnected with current slot pilot Nate ‘Utah’ Scott on Wednesday at their home base. Nearly three decades ago, LCDR Foley met with a then five-year-old Nate during the San Francisco air show which launched a dream for the youngster.

“In 1990, I was (Blue Angel) #7 and took this picture on the pier at San Francisco,” Foley described as the two shared memories of that special day, including a framed photograph. “I flew out to help celebrate that moment this week with his family.”

John Foley’s patriotism and belief in inspiring children and adults to reach for higher goals in life can also be seen within the Blue Angels. Reflecting on the special photograph featuring Scott and himself, Foley turned with a smile to say, “This continues today as Nate and the team inspire the next generation. The Blues do this everyday to thousands of people.”

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

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Charles Atkeison

Written by Charles Atkeison

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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