The Blue Angels completed their 62nd and final show of the 2018 season at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Saturday, in front of a crowd of tens of thousands of people and against a backdrop of crystal clear blue skies.
With the weather markedly warmer and less cloudy than Friday’s practice show, the crowds came out in force to watch the civilian air show and then the world-famous Blue Angels perform maneuvers and heart-stopping nosedives.
The Blue Angels’ performance lasted for nearly an hour. Fat Albert, the team’s trademark C-130 that transports equipment for the shows, kicked off the show with a fly-by to raucous applause from the audience.
Fat Albert had many fans at Saturday’s show, including 8-year-old Gibson Craig and his 5-year-old brother Ezra. The boys donned green Navy flight suits, mini-aviators and headphones as they sat in a wagon and flipped through the pages of a Blue Angels program before the main show, pointing at each pilot.
Their parents, Kristen and Jeremy, from Andalusia, Alabama, said the boys are obsessed with the Blue Angels, and Fat Albert in particular.
“This is our ninth year,” Kristen said. “We started coming when I was pregnant with (Gibson) and we’ve come her every year since. Now it’s all these guys talk about all year long. They love Fat Albert, and they’re looking forward to seeing him come out today.”
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While the Craig boys were looking forward to seeing the C-130, Luke Richards and his father came to the air show from Birmingham, England and said they were looking forward to seeing the F-22 Raptor. The two are aviation enthusiasts and have long wanted to see the Blue Angels.
“It’s an absolutely lovely show. We are excited to be here,” he said.
The father and son planned to tour the National Naval Aviation Museum on Sunday.
Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gilliam, director of the National Naval Aviation Museum, was also part of Saturday’s large air show crowd.
Gilliam said the annual show is one of his favorite events of the year.
“It is such a huge part of Pensacola and of naval aviation,” he said.
Gilliam, a naval aviator himself, said his favorite Blue Angels maneuver is the team’s double fall roll, where two of the jets are upside down and two are right side up.
The Blue Angels performed the double fall roll and many more during their hour-long performance Saturday. Their knife-edge pass, where two planes come at each other at fast speeds and appear to nearly run into each other before passing in an “X” formation, drew gasps from the audience. The diamond-formation loop roll, in which the pilots experience nearly four times the weight of gravity during their ascent into the sky, drew cheers.
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Jamie Keeton, a Pensacola native currently living in Chicago, came down to Pensacola to visit family and see the show. He stood on a bench and excitedly took pictures with his phone as the Blue Angels performed.
Keeton, who said he hadn’t seen the show since he was a little kid, was thrilled with the Blue Angels’ performance.
“It’s just incredible,” he said, right before an FA-18 made a surprise pass overhead, stunning the audience.
The 2019 Blue Angels season starts off March 16 in El Centro, California. Their Pensacola Beach air show is scheduled for July 13 and their final shows will be Nov. 8 and 9 at NAS Pensacola.