Maggie A's Meanderings




Blue Angels at Home

November 20, 2011
Composite of Blue Angel and Wall of Fire
"Wall of Fire" and composite work by me.
Blue Angel from Flight over the Falls Airshow 7-29-11 (110729-N-DI587-048) by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr (Public Domain)

NAS Pensacola Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show
Celebrating 100 Years of Naval Aviation
Veteran's Day, 11-11-11

Otto the Helo

Centennial of Naval Aviation logoIn 2011, the U.S. celebrated a Centennial of Naval Aviation for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. For Naval Air Station Pensacola which calls itself the "Cradle of Naval Aviation" and is home to the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, this is a big deal.

Every Navy and Marine aviator starts his or her aviation career at NAS Pensacola. It's a tradition dating back to the beginnings of U.S. naval aviation as NAS Pensacola was the very first naval air station. (Though back in those days it was called a naval aeronautical station.) Until 1940, Pensacola was the Navy's only air station.

The celebration has been happening all year at NAS Pensacola, but, without a doubt the highlight of the celebration is the annual Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show held on Friday and Saturday, Veteran's Day weekend. It is the last show of the season for the Blue Angels.

Pensacola NAS InsigniaAs I mentioned in "Red, White and Blues: The Pensacola Beach Airshow Featuring the Blue Angels," the summer and autumn air shows couldn't be more different though the Blue Angels fly at them both. The summer show is a party at the beach. The fall air show on NAS Pensacola is a traditional military air show with a static display and lots of uniformed soldiers. I enjoy them both in their own way (life guards, men in uniforms.......both enjoyable to me). Summer's show has Pensacola Beach.........what more needs to be said than that? But you can't get close to the planes or the pilots and there aren't as many acts. At the autumn show, you can see the pilots taxi by the crowd and wave as they take-off and land. And I hope the pilots enjoy getting to see the crowd wave back and cheer. (For the Blue Angel pilots there's no way they can see the people at the beach show as they're too busy flying to look at us. But at the Homecoming show, they can see us as they taxi --- though only Blue Angel #6 waved to us after he landed.)

Blue Angels insigniaMy experience with air shows is limited. I once was in email contact with a guy who filmed air shows for a living, and he could give a better assessment. But for me, my air show experience is limited to military air shows (in Mississippi where I grew up and now here in Pensacola) and the one civilian air show I went to. But I expect that NAS Pensacola's Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show is as good as any "air show" air shows out there ----- especially since this year they finally fulfilled my air show dream and had the Red Bull Copter, so I've finally seen a helicopter fly upside down, something I've wanted to see for years. (What I mean by "air show" air show is a traditional air show with set acts, not a race or competition.)
The Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show is heavily oriented toward aerobatics rather than military demonstrations. The acts are top quality, and several of them are prize winning with medals and awards including one National Champion & World Gold Medalist and two winners of the Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award. The aerobatics will take your breath away, and we usually luck out on the weather as autumn in north Florida is crisp, clear and gorgeous.

  • You should check out the official website. It has lots of good information.
  • Technically the gates open at 8AM, but you can go earlier than that. On Friday, if you get to the base between 7 and 8, you can get a front row seat. (I've actually been the very first visitor ---- had insomnia, couldn't sleep so I figured I might as well head out. The reaction at my precipitate arrival was, "I can't believe people are showing up this early." But they parked me.) I don't know details about Saturday's show except it's even more crowded than Friday's.
  • It's a lot of walking. The early arrivals are parked at the far end of (west) San Carlos Road, then the closer parking lots are filled. When San Carlos is filled, the parking spreads out from there. (Click for base map. The air show is at Forrest Sherman Field.)
  • It's a military base. Your bags will be searched. No coolers allowed. Pay attention to the restrictions. Naturally no weapons allowed. (When I was asked if I had a knife, I said, "Yes. I have a pen knife." Then I was asked if the blade was four inches and replied "It's an about an inch" which was fine. Thankfully, they're more reasonable than the TSA.) The guards will refuse to let you in if they don't like what you're carrying. Then you're going to have to take your stuff back to the car and drop it off.
  • There are ticketed seats for sale, but most people just bring camp chairs. If you bring your own chairs, the best viewing is to the west (left) of show center. (Click for air show map. You can set up your chair anywhere marked "Open  Viewing Area.") After they fly, I know the Blue Angels pilots come to the west side to sign autographs. I do not know if they also go to the east side. However, the east side (right of show center) is closer to where the Blue Angels are parked, so if you're especially interested in watching their pre-flight routine, go for the east side.
  • It's probably going to be colder than you think it will be. Even on a warm day temperaturewise, the wind can be chilly. Extra clothing and/or blankets are worth bringing, especially if you're staying for the night show.
  • Don't worry about earplugs. Some booth is always giving them away or you can buy them. But do use them, especially for children.
  • The programs are cheap (only $3 this year) and well worth the pittance. (Not that I'm suggesting they raise the prices. I like the programs only being three dollars.)
  • Bring lip balm if your lips tend to chap in the wind and cold.
  • You might consider eye drops. All the fumes from the exhaust can be irritating to the eyes. (Friday night I came home with eyes so bloodshot you'd think I'd been on a three day bender. And three days is how long they took to go back to normal.)
  • Make an effort to remember where you parked. Especially if you're going to both the day and night shows, everything looks different at night. (I say that one from experience. I couldn't find my car last year as I was parked in a field and it took me a while of wandering around in the dark to locate it.)
  • When you leave, depending upon what lane you're in, is which gate (front or back) you're directed to. So be aware the gate you entered the base from may not be the gate you'll leave the base from. If you're a visitor, make sure you know the route from both gates. (Click for map.)
  • The guards ---- poor souls ---- are on duty all day. The exact same guards, it's not different shifts. By the end of the show, they're tired and cranky. Don't push 'em. Don't test their patience. When they tell you to do something, do it. (And while you're at it, say something nice to them. You've had a long day of fun. They've had a long day of standing in roads and parking lots and having to deal with us --- and "us" can be quite unpleasant.)
  • Everyone's trying to leave at once. Patience is a virtue. (Last year, when I finally found my car, there was such a long line to get into the road, I didn't even try. I unfolded my chair under a street light and read a book while I waited for the traffic to ease up. The guard directing traffic saw what I was doing and told me he'd let me right onto the street. He did and I thanked him.)
Blue Angels at Home
The Blue Angels at Home

So on a cold (still in the 30s when I left the house) Friday morning I headed out wearing my traditional Blue Angels Homecoming outfit of my Thunderbirds sweatshirt ------- hey, Air Force brat never forget your first loyalties. I got to the base about a quarter after seven. After unloading everything from the car, the first thing I did was take notes of where I was parked and draw a map. (I did not want a repeat of last year's not being able to find the car.) I'd estimate I got to the airfield about 7:30 or 7:40, and probably about two or three dozen people had already set up their chairs which meant there was still plenty of space on the front row.

At that hour, the booths were still setting up. But the static display was there and it's nice to walk around and look when it's not crowded. (Scroll down for the "Static Display.")

Most of the booths opened around 8:00. The "vendor" section of the fall air show is much, much more extensive than at the summer beach air show. However, it's still basically the same types: souvenirs, recruitment, food & drink, and commercial. The "commercial" is where the freebies are at. I got two t-shirts, one from State Farm who gave t-shirts to anyone and one from GEICO who only gave t-shirts out to their customers. Pen-Air Federal Credit Union had the free earplugs. There were drawings for bigger prizes. I believe various booths gave away an iPad, $500 worth of gas and a car. (I didn't win any of it. I never do and never have won so much as a doorprize drawing.)
Vendor's Row

The Marines from the 501st Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT-501) from Eglin AFB had a booth. After the summer air show I learned in writing my article that their motto "Vini-Vici" actually means "Of wine, I conquered" instead of what they claim it means, "I came. I conquered." So I just had to ask if they were aware of that. One was. One wasn't. That led to a discussion about double entendre in military mottos. His previous squadron's (VMFA-314, the "Black Knights") motto was "Once a Knight Is Never Enough." When he said for my mind not to go into the gutter, I replied, "Where was my mind supposed to go with that?" He then said that people who returned to the squadron changed it to "Twice a Knight Is Never Enough." I told him, "Personally, I like three times."

The reality is the military has a long history of  racy/punny insignias and slogans. I've seen an insignia with two birds having sex with the logo "Fly-United" (HMM-265), a woman in underwear, and the Playboy bunny. And HMM-263's "Gopher Broke" is funny in a juvenile kind of way though HML-367's "F.A.R.T.S. Air Way" is a little too juvenile for me.

Children's Area
Kid Zone Play Area

I wandered around the static display and the booths until the show started. The acts start flying at 9:00, and, after that, I don't leave my front row seat on the flight line while anything is in the air. And there's something in the air pretty much non-stop from 9:00 until the Blue Angels finish around 3:00. Sometimes the plane for one act will take-off before the plane for the last act has landed.

As far as visibility, we had a perfect day. I don't think there was a cloud in the sky all day. From what I've seen in the videos, Saturday's show had clouds, sometimes a lot of clouds --- but I can only go by the videos because I spent literally all day Saturday inside working on putting this together. (You're looking at the product of a week's worth of work.) Friday was cold ---- well, Florida cold. Walking around the booths was fine, but once I got on the flight line in the wind, I dug out more clothes to put on. The woman next to me quite cleverly pulled out an umbrella and used it to block the wind from her lower half. It stayed cold until well after noon, when the wind finally died down and people finally started taking off layers. (It wasn't just windy at ground level. The letters of the GEICO Skytypers started to shear from the wind as soon as they were formed. So the messages didn't stay legible for long.)

The acts are a good mix with something for everyone. Personally, I like the aerobatics, especially the gyroscopic flying. The older, retired military love the vintage aircraft. The kids enjoy the explosions and the boys love the jet truck. (And if the kids get bored with the acts, they can always go to the Kid's Zone play area.) Naturally, everyone loves the Blue Angels. (Scroll down after the Static Display for photos of the acts.)

A couple of years ago, the pilots from the acts came up to the flight line to sign autographs and take photos, but that didn't happen last year or this year. It's too bad as it was nice to be able to meet the pilots and still watch the show.

The opening ceremonies with the sky divers, the American flag and the national anthem wasn't until lunch time and there's about a ten minute break before them. It's just enough time to hit the porta potty and grab something to eat. (And my compliments to the Navy crew staffing the food tent on the west flight line --- whoever was doing your grilling was good. My chicken breast actually wasn't dried out.) Then the show goes non-stop until it's time for the Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels portion is long, over an hour. That's because you get the whole pre-flight routine with the crew marching and running as if it's a parade drill ----- and to them it is. Everything they do on the ground is precisely choreographed and is as much a part of the show as what happens in the air. 

After the show, the Blue Angels pilots come to the flight line to sign autographs and do their usual recruiting. Even if you didn't get a program or another souvenir, they give out the Blue Angels brochures, so you'll have something for them to sign. (This year I got everyone's autograph except the Fat Albert pilot. He signed his last signature right before I got to him, so all I got was an apology. To which I replied, "No big deal" as it wasn't.) The Blue Angels focus a lot on the younger people, especially the boys. The whole purpose of the Blue Angels is recruitment & retention and I'm too damned old to join the military, so they're not focused on me or the older people though they're polite to everyone. In fact, they're so polite, sometimes in speaking with them, I feel as if I've been dropped into the fictional town of Stepford and these are the Stepford Pilots. I get the urge to ask, "Who are you really? Under that oh-so-professional, carefully instilled demeanor you're required to present along with your set phrases, who are you?" (Living in Pensacola all these years, I've encountered too many Navy/Marine pilots, including too many drunk ones out at the beach, to believe they actually act like that off-duty. "Fly boys" we call them.......sometimes with affection, sometimes with annoyance.)

By the time the Blue Angels have signed their last autograph, there's enough of a break for you to hit the porta potty again, grab some dinner and relax before the night show starts.

The night show is only the first night...........which makes sense if you think about it. The acts all have to spend the night in Pensacola anyway. Whereas, for the second day, they can leave as soon as they're finished. And they do ----- at least some of them do. Some of those planes fly back to their home base rather than being trailered. And, strangely enough, they don't fly out of the Navy airfield they were just at. They fly out of the airport near my house. So on Saturday afternoon, I'll look up and think, "Hey, I saw that yesterday," as I see it winging out of town.

The runway is laid out east to west. So if you stick around for the night show, as a bonus you'll get to see mother nature's glory as you'll be treated to a beautiful view of the sunset. This year we also saw a huge, orange harvest moonrise that was breathtaking as anything happening in the skies.

If you can possibly stay for it, the night show is not to be missed. (If you can't come out for the full day, it's worth coming out just to see the night show.) It combines aerobatics with pyrotechnics, both fireworks and explosions. Back in the days when smoking was allowed, there were "No Smoking" signs all over the airfield which didn't bother me because I've never been a smoker. However, I'd watch the planes and helicopter shooting fireworks with sparks flying everywhere and wonder, "And they're worried about a cigarette?" After the aerial portion there's a fireworks display that climaxes with the always impressive "Wall of Fire."

Evening Portion (4PM to Dark) Night Portion (After Dark to 7PM)
New Orleans Navy Band - "Crescent City Crew" F/A-18F Super Hornet
Skip Stewart in Pitt Special Super Shockwave Jet Truck
Emerald Coast Skydivers Bill Leff in T-6 Texan
John Mohr in Stearman P-17 Bob Carlton in Jet Sailplane
GEICO Skytypers in SNJ-2's E-Team Skydivers
Otto the Helicopter
Fireworks by East Coast Pyrotechnics
Wall of Fire and effects by Rich's Incredible Pyro

Static Display

The NAS Pensacola air show has a static display that must dwarf most other air shows. That's because it has the aircraft from the Naval Aviation Museum to draw upon which means the static display is heavily oriented toward historic aircraft. The program listed over 40 different airframes:

A4C / A4D-1 Skyhawk Glider P-51D Mustang V-22 Osprey
A-7 Corsair H-13 Bell Sioux SB2C Helldiver S-3B Viking
B-52 Stratofortress HU-16 Albatross SBD-5 Dauntless
C1A Tracker H-57 Sea Ranger SNJ-4 / SNJ-5 Texan P-3 Orion
C-130 - Hercules H-60 Seahawk T-2C Buckeye TH-57 Sea Ranger
Douglas A-26 Japanese Zero T-6 Texan OH-58 Kiowa
EA-3D Sky Warrior Life Flight Helo T-34 Turbomentor TC-12B King Air
EA-6B Prowler MH53E Sea Dragon T-39N Sabreliner T-A4 Skyhawk
EA-18G Growler MH-60S Seahawk T-44 Queen Air F6F-3 Hellcat
F-9F Cougar MH-65C Dolphin T-45 Goshawk F-18 / F-18C Hornet

Although great for aircraft history buffs, it's a disadvantage if you're interested in active duty aircraft. Active duty aircraft are what make up the static displays for most military air shows (or so I recall from when I was a kid). The active duty aircraft, of course, come with their flight crews, so you can talk with them and, since they're staffed, many of the aircraft are open, so you can go in them or at least get a good look in the cockpit. The NAS Pensacola air show does have some active duty craft, but the bulk of the static display are the historic aircraft.

Note: I was not planning writing about this air show, so I just walked around snapping photos of whatever caught my eye. I did not record what they were. 
If I had something to work with, I made an attempt to identify the aircraft. But what I know about aircraft could fit in a thimble and still have room, not for your thumb, but for your pinkie. (And I'm actually fine with that. You can't know everything about everything. Yes, learning is a lifelong process --- unless you want your brain to moulder and rot. But everyone picks their own topics. Mine don't happen to be aviation. I enjoy seeing the air shows; I can appreciate the skill of the pilots. When I write about them, I strive for accuracy. That's as far as it goes for me.) 

F/A-18 C Hornet, Blue Angel
F/A-18 C Hornet from 1989
In the past they've had someone stationed here. The canopy was open and you could climb in.
It's the only Blue Angel I'll ever get the chance to be in, and I look forward to climbing in it each year.
But this year, it wasn't open (at least not when I saw it).

Redhawks' T-45 Goshawk
T-45 Goshawk from VT-21 "Redhawks"
The Blue Angel wasn't the only airplane with a showy paint job.

F/A 18 Hornet
F/A 18 Hornet
Inspired by the new Digital camo this was specially painted for the Centennial with "100 YEARS OF NAVAL AVIATION" above the wing.

I was in my front yard when a reservist came by in his newly issued Navy Digital camo. He clearly did not like the new design.
And what happened next didn't make him like it any more.............
He was told by a neighbor's seven or eight year old daughter that it looked girly.
Then when he asked me what I thought of it, I pointed to my brown tabby cat and said, "That's better camouflage."
(Millions of years of evolution went into that coat and when that cat hides in a bush at night, you're not going to find him.)
I still miss the old ERDL camouflage. I just don't like this new camouflage. I don't care how many computer hours went into designing it.
I think if rectangular fractals were great camouflage, it would have come about through natural selection.
Nature has developed many, many types of camouflage; but you don't see any animals with hides like this.

Jet fighter in static display at Pensacola NAS Blue Angels Homecoming Show

Airplane in static display at Pensacola NAS Blue Angels Homecoming Show
The static display included everything from single seat jet fighters up to these behemoths.

CH-46 Sea Knight(?) in in static display at Pensacola NAS Blue Angels Homecoming Show
CH-46 Sea Knight(?) from HMM-163 "Ridge Runners"

I love helicopters; I love the hummingbird flight of them. I don't know much about choppers, but I know this much:
Helicopters are inherently unstable. It takes constant control to compensate for the main and tail rotors.
Holding a helicopter in a perfectly still hover actually takes a lot of skill due to the imbalance of forces between the main and tail rotors.
This design with tandem rotors eliminates that imbalance because the two rotors turn in opposite directions......
meaning they fly quite differently than a single rotor design.

A chopper nearby was active duty. I was talking to one of the flight crew and, naturally, we were talking about helicopters.
He said his chopper (which has a single main rotor with a tail rotor) was the replacement for this one.
(I believe it was this helicopter he indicated; it was definitely a chopper with tandem rotors.)
He then went on to say when the pilots had to transition to the single rotor many of them had problems.
He described it as some "crazy flying."
The pilots were so used to the dual main rotors they had forgotten how to compensate with the tail rotor.

Search and Rescue helicopter in static display at Pensacola NAS Blue Angels Homecoming Show
The insignia says Dragon Masters. If I recall correctly, this was a search and rescue chopper.

MH53E Sea Dragon
MH53E Sea Dragon
This chopper is huge. It's the largest, heaviest chopper used by the U.S. military. In fact, the Sea Dragon is the largest helicopter in the Western world.
You can't really grasp its size from the photo as there's nothing to set the scale.
So let me set the scale: This chopper can carry 55 people. It's 99 feet long and its rotor diameter is 72 feet.
The Super Stallion version of this helicopter was nicknamed the "Hurricane Maker" because of the downwash from the rotors,
and the downwash from this has got to be just as extreme.

Boat in static display at Pensacola NAS Blue Angels Homecoming Show
There were some non-aviation displays. This boat with its dive team was one of them.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal aka Bomb Squad
Explosive Ordnance Disposal
Fancy name for "bomb squad" to me.
The man on the right specialized in underwater EOD. He and I spoke for a while.
The man on the left did land EOD

Photography Notes:

All photos by me unless otherwise indicated. I give my usual caveat --- that if I actually had any regular readers, they would have read before ---- all I have is a 12 megapixel, basic point and shoot camera. If you're looking for professional quality air show photographs, look elsewhere. The fact that I'm in the front row does not compensate for not having a foot worth of lens on the front of my camera. My writing's professional. My photography is the best I can do with the camera I have. Count yourself lucky if the picture's in focus as my camera doesn't like moving objects. Also, I did not take any photos at the night show as my camera likes nighttime as much as vampires like daytime. (Any suggestions that I get a better camera should be accompanied by a check to pay for it.)

None of the video was shot by me. Some of it's an act's official video. The rest I found on YouTube, most by GulfCoastAirshows and airshowfansh though there are others. So, much thanks to the various people who did shoot the video. Click on the links to watch on their YouTube pages. 

The Acts

Otto the Helo
Otto the Helicopter Clown
Otto the Helicopter Clown is a local from right here in Pensacola. (Though I've never met the people, so this plug is purely objective.)
If any "one percenters" out there are looking for the next over-the-top entertainment for their kid's birthday party, they should hire Otto.
Otto the bubble gum blowing, little clown has such a big personality, you tend to forget there's a skilled pilot in there.
But it takes skill to pick up a barrel with a skid or to get a yoyo to go up and down.

Video from Saturday's show:

Video from Friday Night Show:

  Otto also does the most amazing night show filled with pyrotechnics.
Every time I see it, it leaves me wondering how a helicopter that small can hold that many fireworks
and how in the hell do you shoot fireworks off from a helicopter?

Stearmans at NAS Pensacola
Stearman Demo
The Stearman on the left is in Army markings,  the one on the right in Navy.

Curtiss Pusher
1911 Ely-Curtiss Pusher Replica
The Curtiss Pusher was the first plane ever to make a carrier take-off and landing.
As such it has the honor of being on the official patch for the Centennial of Naval Aviation along with the F/A-18.
This is the only flying replica in the United States.

Video of Stearman and Curtiss Pusher Flight from Saturday's show:

Bill Leff in T-6 Texan
Bill Leff in T-6 Texan
I wonder if he has to polish it to keep the plane that shiny?

Video from Saturday's show:

Bill Leff also performed his Starfire Night Sky Show on Friday night:

Jan Collmer and FINA Extra
Jan Collmer in FINA Extra 300L
The most amazing thing about Jan Collmer is he's a month shy of his 77th birthday.
You can bet he's not one of those old guys driving 40mph on the interstate.
Jan Collmer actually got his wings at NAS Pensacola........back in 1954.

Video from Saturday's show

John Mohr in Stearman
John Mohr in Stearman P-17
This is a 1943 unmodified, stock Stearman.
Since it's unmodified, it's not meant to fly upside. You could actually hear the engine cut out and watch the flaming restart.
The announcer mentioned often that no one flies a stock Stearman better than John Mohr.
He has won the Bull Barber Award for Showmanship and the Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award (2000).
John Mohr also repeated his act as part of the night show, early in the evening while there's still some daylight.

Video from Saturday's show:

Super Shockwave Jet Truck
Super Shockwave Jet Truck
This extremely modified 1957 Chevy is always a favorite with the young boys in the audience.
The Super Shockwave can reach over 300 mph. (A much higher max speed than many of the older planes in the air show.)
It also makes an appearance in the night show.

Video from Friday's daytime show:

Video from Friday Night Show:

Skip Stewart in Prometheus a Pitt Special
Skip Stewart in Prometheus
Knife edge flight in Prometheus.
Prometheus is a highly modified Pitt S-2S with a paintjob that would make a NASCAR driver drool with envy
and a name that any classical scholar would recognize.
The name always makes me go, "Why?" Sure Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man.
The gods, specifically Zeus (King of the Gods), were not pleased, and when Greek gods are not pleased someone suffers.
In this case, Prometheus got staked out to a rock and every day an eagle would eat his liver which magically regrew each night,
so he could look forward to going through the whole thing again tomorrow. (Those Greek gods had a mean streak.)
This went on until Prometheus was finally rescued by Hercules.
This is not a fate I would aspire to. I mean you might as well just name it Icarus if you really want to court disaster.
Personally, if I were looking to Greek mythology for a name of my plane, I'd have gone for 
Skip Stewart also repeated his act, complete with signature ribbon cutting, as part of the night show.

Video of Skip Stewart's first performance on Friday:

Bob Carlton in Jet Sailplane
Bob Carlton in Super Salto Jet Sailplane
As the name says, this sailplane has its own jet engine, so it can take off on under its own power.
To watch this performance is a study in grace.

Video from Friday's daytime show:

Video of Friday Night Show:

Opening Ceremonies

Geico Skytypers

Geico Skytyped Message: 100 YEARS OF NAVAL AVIATION
GEICO Skytypers in SNJ-2's
When I was trying to explain to someone what the GEICO Skytypers do I said,
"They don't do skywriting. They do dot matrix printing in the sky."
Each dot matrix letter is the size of the Empire State Building.
The completed message was "100 YEARS OF NAVAL AVIATION."

Emerald Coast Skydivers and Geico Skytypers
Emerald Coast Skydivers
The Emerald Coast Skydivers jumped in for the opening ceremonies which took place around lunchtime and jumped again for the Night Show.

Video of the Friday night skydive from the diver's POV:

E-Team Skydivers and POW/MIA Flag
E-Team Skydivers
E-Team Skydiver with POW/MIA flag
The E-Team Skydivers were in the night show and parachuted in with fireworks.

E-Team Sxydivers and US Flag
E-Team Skydivers with a 5000 square foot American flag.
The skydiver had a red, white and blue parachute. But something went wrong, and he had to cut it away and deploy this reserve chute.
The people in the lower right corner were waiting to run in and pick up the flag once it touched down.
Let me take this moment to remind people of the U.S. Flag Code, Title 4 Section 8:
Respect for flag
    (b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
 Why is it always the people who violate the Flag Code who feel they're being the most patriotic?
Personally, I think patriotism is better displayed by showing respect to the flag by following the laws of the Flag Code, not breaking it.
Should the U.S. Flag Code ever be modified to allow a flag that is being parachuted to touch the ground then I won't have an issue with this.
Until then I do have an issue with letting the U.S. flag fall on the ground as a show.

Video of both skydiving teams during Friday's opening ceremony:

Airplane Parade
Parade of Trainers and Warbirds
left to right 1) F4U-5 Corsair 2) P-51 Mustang 3) Grumman TF-1 (C-1A) Trader 4) T-6 Texan SNJ-5
This is part of what I describe as the sentimental portion of the air show. The military can be a lot more sentimental than their image. This was a parade of airframes that had been used as trainers for all the service branches and then a flight of warbirds. All totaled there must have been close to 20 airplanes flying in this segment. There was no listing of the aircraft in the Parade of Trainers. A partial listing of the Warbirds was in the program.
F8F-2 Blue Angel Bearcat
USN SBD Dauntless
P-51 Mustang
SB2C Helldiver
F4U-5 Corsair
A6M2 "Zero"
Nakajima B5N2 "Kate"

Video of Parade of Trainers from Friday's show:

Video of Warbirds from Friday's show:

A-10 Warthog
A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog)
The Warthog did an aerobatic display, then followed up with a combat demo which included the first use of pyrotechnics
and finished with a flight with one of its predecessors.

A-10 Warthog in simulated combat
Warthog Simulated Combat Demo

Heritage Flight: A-10 Warthog with P-51
Heritage Flight
Another sentimental journey, this for the Air Force: A-10 Warthog with P-51 Mustang

A-10  Thunderbolt II flight with all three sections from Friday's show:

Geico Skytypers
GEICO Skytypers in SNJ-2's
After they were through "typing," the squadron flew a routine.
They flew it again for the evening show though then they were missing one plane.
(This is my absolute favorite photograph out of all the photos I took.)

See the GEICO Skytypers fly with the Blue Angels:

Video from Saturday's show:

TinStix of Dynamite
TinStix of Dynamite
Skip Stewart in Prometheus and John Mohr in Stearman P-17 with explosions by Rich's Incredible Pyro

John Mohr in Stearman with Super Shockwave Jet Truck
John Mohr's Stearman and Super Shockwave Jet Truck
Video from Saturday's show:

Skip Stewart and Super Shockwave Jet Truck
Super Shockwave Jet Truck and Skip Stewart in Prometheus
Video of Skip Stewart and Super Shockwave Jet Truck from Saturday's show:

Wall of Flame
"Wall of Fire" by Rich's Incredible Pyro
Rich's Incredible Pyro has two Guinness World Records for the longest "Wall of Fire."
After the fireworks by East Coast Pyrotechnics, the night show always ends with a second "Wall of Fire."
Even at a distance, you can still feel the heat from it.

See the climax of the Friday Night Show with fireworks and the Wall of Fire:

F-18 Super Hornet
F/A-18 Super Hornet
Technically a F/A-18 F Super Hornet as it's a two-seater.
The F/A-18 E (single seat) and F (double seat) are what the fleet flies.
The Blue Angels still fly the Hornet, not the Super Hornet.

Video from Friday's daytime performance:

Video from Friday Night Show:

After the daytime demo, the Super Hornet kicks off the dark portion of the night show with views of its afterburner.

Legacy Flight
Legacy Flight
One last sentimental journey, this time a Navy one.
Even though the program says F15, it was still the F/A-18 Super Hornet that was joined by a Corsair and a Bearcat.
The Bearcat is painted as a Blue Angel (see photo below).

Video from Friday's show:

Red Bull Helicopter
Chuck Aaron in the Red Bull Helicopter (BO-105)
Chuck Aaron is the first helicopter pilot to be awarded the Art Scholl Showmanship Award from the International Council of Air Shows.
This was the Red Bull chopper's first appearance at the NAS Pensacola Homecoming Show.
I hope that the Red Bull chopper will be back next year. As mentioned, I love helicopters and the one serious quibble I had with the NAS Pensacola air show was only having a single helicopter act. I've been waiting for years to see the Red Bull chopper and to finally see (in person) a helicopter fly upside down.
See the first helicopter loop from 1949.
(I've never managed to find out when the first helicopter roll was. If anyone reading this has information on that, please drop me an email.)

Video from Friday's show:

David Martin in Breitling CAP232
David Martin in CAP232
I'm no expert, but David Martin's performance looks to me to be the most aerobatic of all the acts.
David Martin has won an individual gold medal and three team bronze medals at the World Aerobic Championships and was the 2001 U.S. National Champion.

While in town for the air show, they did this video from the pilot's POV:

Video from Friday's show:

Bearcat painted as Blue Angel
F8F-2 Bearcat
The Bearcat was the second airframe used by the Blue Angels (August 1946 to 1949).
This Bearcat was not one of the actual Blue Angels, but is in a replica paintjob.

Video from Friday's show:

The Flight of the Blue Angels

Fat Albert in flight
Fat Albert, Hercules C-130

Fat Albert with American Flag
Fat Albert taxiing down the runway with a proper display of the American flag.

Blue Angel #1 Taxiing
Blue Angels, F/A-18 A Hornet
Blue Angel #1 taxiing down runway.
For the Centennial, the paintjob has been modified with "100 YEARS OF NAVAL AVIATION" on the nose
and "FLY NAVY 100 YEARS" above and to the right of "Blue Angels."
The Blue Angels fly the single seat F/A-18 A Hornet (#1 to #6) and the double seat F/A-18 B (#7) as a spare and to take up passengers.
Blue Angels #1 to #4 make up the Diamond while Blue Angels #5 and #6 are the Lead and Opposing Solos.

Blue Angels about to take-off
First four Blue Angels about to take-off.....................

Blue Angels in the wild, blue yonder.
.............Into the wild, blue yonder.
(Oh, right, sorry, that's the Air Force.)

Blue Angels in Diamond formation
Blue Angels in Diamond formation

Blue Angels in Diamond formation
Blue Angels in Diamond formation
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr (Public Domain)

The two solo Blue Angels
The two solo Blue Angels with landing gear extended

Blue Angels with landing gear extended
The two solo Blue Angels with landing gear extended
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr (Public Domain)

Blue Angels in the wild, blue yonder
Blue Angels flying high

Blue Angels in Diamond formation
Blue Angels in Diamond formation

Solo Blue Angel
Solo Blue Angel in Knife Edge Flight

Blue Angels
Blue Angels

Blue Angels
Blue Angels in Double Farvel formation

Blue Angels in Double Farval formation
Blue Angels in Double Farvel formation

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr (Public Domain)

Solo Blue Angels in Knife Edge Pass
The two solo Blue Angels pass while in knife edge flight

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr (Public Domain)

Blue Angels in Echelon formation
Blue Angels in Echelon formation

Blue Angels in Echelon formation
Blue Angels in Echelon formation
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr (Public Domain)

Two solo Blue Angels
The two solo Blue Angels in Section High Alpha, the slowest maneuver

Blue Angels in Diamond formation
Blue Angels in Diamond formation

Two solo Blue Angels
The two solo Blue Angels
You know, I still can't believe my little camera photographed moving Blue Angels clearly enough to read the tail numbers.

Blue Angels
Blue Angels
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr (Public Domain)

Blue Angels Crossover
Blue Angels Crossover
The interesting thing about photographing this is when you're watching it, it looks like everyone crosses at once it happens so fast.
But when you see a still photo (if you can capture the moment), you see how far apart the planes actually are.

Solo Blue Angel in climb
Solo Blue Angel #6 in climb
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr (Public Domain)

Blue Angels Delta formation break
Breaking out of Delta formation at show's end

Video from Saturday's show

A beautifully edited video by MKBLUES1

Naval Insignia: Centennial of Naval Aviation, NAS Pensacola and Blue Angels

Blue Angels at Home

To read about the summer air show check out"Red, White and Blues: The Pensacola Beach Airshow Featuring the Blue Angels." For more public entertainment out at NAS Pensacola there's "The Sounds of Pensacola: Summer Salute IV."  For more on Pensacola or simply to see more of my work (my writing is much better than my photography) take a look around the Archive.



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