PENSACOLA, Fla. — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels have launched into their new air show season and with it comes the sights and sounds of six blue and gold jets practicing high speed maneuvers and tight formations over their home base at NAS Pensacola.
These practice flights are an air show preview each week for the public visiting the Emerald Coast. During most of the weeks between April and November, the Blues practice from their base located next door to the popular National Naval Aviation Museum.
“It is such a wonderful treat to have this close affiliation with the Blue Angels,” Museum Director and retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gilliam said on Wednesday. “To host them here in the Naval Aviation Museum atrium for an autograph session after having performed a superlative practice show Tuesday and today.”
The public is invited to arrive early to watch the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron practice from the flight line located at the Naval Museum. During most weeks of the air show season, guests arrive at the museum before 10 a.m. to avoid the traffic to get an up close view of the Blues demonstration.
“There are a lot of great museums in the world — no museum has the opportunity to have this relationship with such as phenomenal organization as the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron,” Capt. Gilliam added. “We love this relationship, we love the Navy, and we love our patrons that come here to the museum.”
A typical Blue Angels practice begins at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and is subject to change due to weather or air show schedule demands. A typical flight lasts around 45 minutes and viewing is free to the public.
Rows of chairs and open bleacher seating are available to seat one-thousand people. Concession stands loaded with drinks, snacks, and Blue Angels souvenirs are located near the seating areas.
A special treat occurs during most Wednesday’s following their flight. The Blue Angels’ pilots will head straight to the museum after parking their jets for a special meet-n-greet with the public. Guests file in from the airfield to the museum’s large atrium to meet the Blue Angels pilots.
“As locals, we’re blessed to be able to hear the sound of freedom on a weekly basis,” Naval Museum official photographer Courtney Sweeden said following Wednesday’s practice. “Having the Blue Angels’ practice demos here not only helps the museum thrive with vacationers, but it also helps local businesses thrive as well.”
If you do not possess a military or DoD ID, you must enter through the West Gate located on 1878 South Blue Angel Parkway, Pensacola. A government issued ID, such as a drivers license or passport, will be needed to access the military base.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and science. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)