PENSACOLA, Fla. — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels have spent this week in spring training mode as they continue to perform practice flights over their home at NAS Pensacola.
Amid the cancellation of air shows due to Covid-19 concerns, the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron is maintaining its readiness to perform. The team hopes the season will resume by this summer.
“The Blue Angels are conducting spring training at NAS Pensacola to maintain readiness for the 2020 show season,” Blue Angels spokesperson LTJG Chelsea Dietlin said on Thursday. “Whether supporting the demonstration from the ground or flying in the air, the Blue Angels will continue to strive for precision performance and reinforce teamwork.”
The Blues had been scheduled to perform at 28 locations between March and November. Their current show schedule is now down to 20 locations.
The already shortened show schedule is to accommodate Blue Angels training as they prepare to transition to the larger F/A-18 Super Hornets. The team will begin to acquire eleven of the newer, more powerful Super Hornets this summer and fall for use in 2021.
Currently, the squadron will begin their season with a full performance over the Severn River at Annapolis, MD on May 20 at 2 p.m. The Blues will then perform their annual fly over of the U.S. Naval Academy graduation on May 22 at 10:04 a.m.
Led by new Boss CDR Brian C. Kesselring, the 2020 Blue Angels pilots include right wing LCDR James Haley, left wing Maj. Frank Zastoupil, slot LCDR James Cox, lead solo LCDR Brandon Hempler, and opposing solo LCDR Cary Rickoff.
At each air show, the narration of the pilots’ demonstration will be performed by Lt. Julius Bratton. It is his voice which will educate guests across the flightline speakers as to how each maneuver is executed.
During each air show, members of the Blue Angels will visit local community hospitals and education centers. Public outreach has been a popular activity at every air show site.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of being a Blue Angel is the opportunity to spend time visiting hospitals, schools, and community functions in each air show city,” Lt. Bratton said. “At schools across the country, the team takes time to interact with students and discuss the benefits of military service and the excitement of naval aviation across the country, hoping to inspire others to pursue their own dreams.”
This summer, the Blue Angels look to debut their newest C-130 Hercules aircraft at air shows. Known as Fat Albert, the Blues acquired an upgraded newer C-130J logistics plane last year.
The aircraft’s all-Marine crew are currently training else where to prepare the new Fat Albert for service. Bert will also perform a 12-minute flight demonstration at show sites as a lead in to the jet team’s performance.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)