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Blue Angels, Top Aerobatic Performers Arrive for Tuscaloosa Airshow

The Navy's Blue Angels soar over Tuscaloosa on Thursday. This is the squadron's fourth visit to the air show. (Charles Atkeison)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt screamed across western Alabama on Thursday as top military and civilian aircraft began arriving for the Tuscaloosa Regional Airshow this weekend.

The two-day family event will bring together aerobatic flying, great food, and a family-friendly atmosphere at a growing airport. Weather permitting, aircraft rides and a Kids Zone bounce area will be open to visitors each day.

Tuscaloosa city and airport officials welcomed the Navy’s flight demonstration team upon arriving at the regional airport at 10:29 a.m. As the headline performer, the Blue Angels are expected to draw nearly 70,000 attendees over the weekend.

The Blue’s six blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets will take-off at around 3:10 p.m. each day to begin their nearly 42-minute flight demonstration. The six jet Delta Team will split into a Diamond and two solos minutes later as they perform nearly 30 maneuvers demonstrating the handling characteristics of the Navy’s Hornet aircraft. Stay alert for the solos’ famous sneak pass from behind the crowd.

“We are showcasing the tight formation of the diamond, and when the diamond is not in front of the crowd, the solos get to do their maneuvers,”LT Brandon Hempler, Blue Angels opposing solo pilot, said on Thursday. “Yes, we do everything from the high alpha pass showing how slow the aircraft can go, and we also do the famous sneak pass that hopefully catches a few people off guard.”

Blue Angels pilot LT Brandon Hempler is ready to perform over Tuscaloosa this weekend. (Mark Chandler)

This month marks the Blue Angel’s 72nd anniversary, and the team’s arrival into Tuscaloosa begins their fifth air show visit of 32 planned during the 2018 season. One Blue Angel pilot was grinning as he discussed with AvGeekery about their visit to Title Town, U.S.A.

“Hey, we all love Alabama, and I have watched a lot of football the last few years and it’s a great team,” LT Hempler, Blue Angels said as we stood in the shadow of his number 6 jet. “There’s a lot of great teams across the country, but, you know, Alabama’s a power house.”

The popular A-10C Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog on the flight line, will perform a nearly 20 minute display featuring the aircraft’s handling characteristics. The gray, low wing monoplane will demonstrate tight maneuvers, its ability to hold in flight over a small area, and its ability to perform short take-off and landings.

World aerobatic champion Rob Holland will perform over the Tuscaloosa Airshow. (Charles Atkeison)

Aerobatic champion Rob Holland will pilot his MX2, pilot Greg Koontz will offer a comedic spin during his flight, the historic De Havilland DH-115 warbird, and theU.S. Army’s current UH-72 Lakota helicopter from Birmingham’s 114th Aviation Detachment.

With the threat of rain is forecast over the area on Saturday, organizers confirmed that the air show will be held rain or shine. Umbrellas will not be allowed inside the gates, however show officials said that ponchos are allowed and will also be sold inside the gates.

Free shuttle service from three major parking lots will offer guests easy access to the airport each day. The former K-Mart parking lot, Tuscaloosa County High School, and Tuscaloosa Intermodal Facility Downtown Parking will each have buses ferrying guests to the air show beginning at 9:00 a.m.

The static aircraft displays and the popular kids zone will open at the same time the gates open to the public at 10:00 a.m. The national anthem and the first performance flights are scheduled to begin at noon.

The popular Kids Zone located near the static aircraft will allow children a fun way to pass the time prior to the aerobatic performances. Aircraft themed air slides, jump houses, and more will be available all day on each day, air show management confirmed.

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