SMYRNA, Tenn. — The thundering sound of the Blue Angels’ jets heralded their arrival over middle Tennessee on Thursday, announcing that the squadron is back for The Great Tennessee Air Show.
As the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Team arrived in a delta formation, the six pilots provided a smoke-on salute to the town of Smyrna. The community demonstrated an outpouring of support for the Blue Angels during the last three years when the team need it the most.
The military aircraft touched down at 10:30 a.m. into Smyrna-Rutherford County Airport, site of this weekend’s two-day air show. Moments later, the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron’s aircraft maintainers went to work to turn their F/A-18C Hornets around for two practice flights that afternoon.
The team’s arrival coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of northern France during an event known as D-Day. The historic aerial and water landing surrounding Normandy Beach quicken the end of the Second World War on June 6, 1944.
The Blue Angels number 4 pilot Major Jeff Mullins, himself a United States Marine, discussed his thoughts on the special anniversary. The Memphis native feels a special relationship with those who fought during the Longest Day.
“D-Day is the epitome of what happens when not just our young men and women who serve our country, including our allies, come together to work toward a common goal can accomplish,” Maj. Mullins said from the Smyrna flightline on Thursday. “All we can do is put these jets in the sky and give some sort of legacy to what they did on D-Day 75 years ago.”
Navy logistics specialist and crew coordinator LS1 Derrious Austin carries a strong sense of pride in teamwork everyday. He is one of only two Blue Angels coordinators who’s job it is to make sure the aircraft maintainers and support teams stay on schedule.
“It’s a privilege for me, and I take a lot of pride in it, because I know this team represents the Navy Sailors and Marines that we have throughout the world,” Austin said. “To be able to lead a group of Sailors and Marines that carry that weight on their shoulders is awesome.”
The Blue Angels were all smiles as they arrived into middle Tennessee, including Austin. The team continues to train and prepare for each show six-days a week.
“We take a lot of pride in coming back to Smyrna to put on an awesome air show,” Austin added as we walked past those blue and gold jets. “We would really appreciate it if everyone would come on out and experience it.”
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)