PENSACOLA, Fla. — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are closing out winter training and turning their focus this week to an air show schedule which will cover over thirty locations across the United States and Nova Scotia.
The Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron are in the final days of an exhaustive winter training season in preparation for their 73rd anniversary year. The demonstration pilots have been performing two-to-three practice flights a day, while the maintenance and logistics personnel keep the aircraft and the 32 air show sites on schedule.
“Our success is truly a testament to our commitment to excellence in everything we do,” Blue Angels Boss Capt. Eric Doyle said recently. “Our Sailors and Marines have taken everything they’ve learned in the Fleet, expanded upon that, and applied it to our unique mission.”
Their first air show is Saturday, March 16, at NAF El Centro — their winter home in the southern California desert. This annual air show is held to say a special “thank-you” to the Imperial Valley community.
“We couldn’t train like we do without NAF El Centro and the surrounding community,” said Capt. Doyle last week. “This base is always a great host to us, and other operational Fleet squadrons, and the community here makes us feel like family.”
They will then embark upon a season filled with high speed precision flying and sweeping formation flights across the airfield, as show crowds yell out, “Did you just see that!” Following their second show at Salinas, Calif., the entire squadron will spend Monday, March 25 making the cross-country trip home to Pensacola, Florida.
A historic highlight of the season will take place during the Joint Base Andrews Air Show in May. The Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds will perform each afternoon one hour apart. An air show with both demonstration teams is very rare.
JB Andrews will become the first air show featuring the United States top two military flight teams in over a decade. The Thunderbirds will perform first on Saturday, and the Blues will perform first on Sunday. Last August, the two demonstration teams met up over Lake Erie for a photo opportunity.
An emotional highlight will follow as the Blue Angels return to Smyrna, Tenn. for the first time since the tragic loss of their opposing solo pilot seconds after take-off in 2016. The city of Smyrna dedicated a beautiful memorial to the fallen pilot, Capt. Jeff Kuss, last June — located between the runway he last flew from and the crash site.
Each air show the Blue Angels visit will include top military and civilian aerobatic pilots performing in the preceding hours. Many of their shows will include performance by the Air Force with the F-22 Raptor, the F-16 Viper, or an A-10C Warthog.
The Blue Angels is lead by second year squadron “Boss” Capt. Eric “Popeye” Doyle. The Diamond Team includes LT James Haley, LT James Cox, and Maj. Jeff Mullins. The two solo pilots, LCDR Brandon Hempler and LCDR Andre Webb, will have both young and old in awe as the solos perform dynamic, high speed maneuvers including speed past each other at over 500 m.p.h.
These pilots are apart of an elite group of only 267 who have performed as a Blue Angel demonstration pilot during the squadron’s 73-year history. Capt. Doyle is the squadron’s 37th commanding officer.
Updated Blue Angels 2019 Air Show Schedule:
March 16 | NAF El Centro, CA | NAF El Centro Annual Air Show
March 23/24 | Salinas, CA | California International Air Show Salinas
March 30/31 | NAS Key West, FL | Southernmost Air Spectacular
April 6/7 | Lakeland, FL | Sun ‘n Fun Air Show
April 13/14 | NAS Corpus Christi, TX | Wings Over South Texas
April 20/21 | Bye Weekend
April 27/28 | MCAS Beaufort, SC | MCAS Beaufort Air Show
May 4/5 | Fort Lauderdale, FL | Ford Lauderdale Air Show
May 10/12 | Joint Base Andrews, MD Air Show
May 18/19 | Cape Girardeau, MO Regional Air Festival
May 22 | Annapolis, MD | U.S. Naval Academy Air Show
May 25/26 | Miami Beach Air and Sea Show
June 1/2 | Oklahoma City, OK | Star Spangled Salute Air Show
June 8/9 | Smyrna, TN | Great Tennessee Air Show
June 15/16 | Ocean City, MD | OC Air Show
June 29/30 | Davenport, IA | Quad City Air Show
July 6/7 | Kansas City, MO | KC Downtown Air Show
July 13 | Pensacola Beach, FL Air Show
July 20/21 | Duluth, MN Air and Aviation Expo
July 27/28 | Grand Junction, CO Air Show
August 3/4 | Seattle, WA | Boeing Seafair Air Show
August 17/18 | Chicago, IL Air and Water Show
August 24/25 | New Windsor, NY | New York Air Show
Aug. 31-Sep. 1 | Greenwood, Nova Scotia, Canada | Air Show Atlantic
Sept. 7/8 | Chesterfield, MO | Spirit of St. Louis Air Show
Sept. 14/15 | Bye Weekend
Sept. 21/22 | NAS Lemoore, CA | Central Valley Air Show
Sept. 28/29 | MCAS Miramar, CA | MCAS Miramar Air Show
Oct 5/6 | Sacramento, CA | California Capital Air Show
Oct 12/13 | San Francisco, CA | San Francisco Fleet Week
Oct 19/20 | Fort Worth, TX | Fort Worth Alliance Air Show
Oct 26/27 | Jacksonville Beach, FL | Jacksonville Sea and Sky Air Show
Nov 2/3 | Moody AFB, GA | Thunder over South Georgia
Nov 8/9 | NAS Pensacola, FL | Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)