Blue Angels Poised for Historic Airshow Season

The Blue Angels train in February for a season which will see them perform at 32 air show sites. (US Navy).

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.”

The Blue Angels diamond practices in February above El Centro. This image was photographed from Angel 4 (a two-seat F/A-18 Hornet) by Navy PO2C Tim Schumaker.

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.

The 2019 Blue Angels practice above NAF El Centro, Calif. in February. (USN)

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 six pilots of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, with Boss Doyle at right, prepare for flight. (USN)

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.)