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Blue Angels gear up for Cherry Fest

TC is host to first performances since crash

TRAVERSE CITY — Every second of every day.
That’s how the U.S.
Navy Blue Angels honor fallen No. 6 pilot Marine Corps Capt. Jeff Kuss —
in everything they do, said pilot No. 4 Lt. Andy Talbott.
“Everything
that we do honors Capt. Kuss — from when we get up in the morning until
when we get in at night. We’re representing him every second and every
moment of every day,” he said Thursday before the team took flight for a
training session.
The Blue Angels arrived in Traverse City late Wednesday to
prepare for their National Cherry Festival air show performances, the
first since Kuss died when his F/A-18 Hornet crashed during a practice
in Smyrna, Tenn., on June 2. The team canceled three air shows and were
grounded for three weeks.
Five Blue Angels pilots will perform the
flight demonstration without the sixth jet, and Talbott said the team
will operate that way for “some time.”
The jets will reach speeds
of 700 mph and gravitational forces of 7 to 8 throughout the show, but
they won’t break the sound barrier, he said.
“It’ll be a lot of
high performance, a lot of power and a lot of noise up there,” Talbott
said. “You’re going to see the same techniques and aerial skills as
fleet aviators do around the world but we do it in a precise manner with
a lot of repetition and lots of practice to really show you and
represent the pilots in the fleet around the world.”
The Blue Angels enjoy their performances in Traverse City because of the show’s arena — West Grand Traverse Bay.

“The majority of performances are over the air field and this one is
over water,” Talbott said. “The over-water shows are really a lot of fun
— the air is a lot smoother over the water because the coolness of the
water doesn’t create as much turbulence.
“We’re excited to be here.”
Blue Angels team member and native Michigander Petty Officer
2nd Class Stephanie Confer also is excited for the upcoming
performances, but also for her family to see the show in her home state.
“It’s
cool to be able to share what we do with my family. They’re excited to
be here — the cherry festival is what we did every year,” Confer said.
“All my family is coming up to experience what we grew up with but with
this extra twist.”
Confer, a Pinckney native, is in her first year
with the team and supplies parts for the jets and helps with the
budgeting in the field — she keeps the planes filled with 500-900
gallons of fuel per jet per show.
The pilots will meet with community members and visit with children during their stop in northern Michigan.
The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City will host an open ramp event
from 6-8 p.m. on Friday with parking opening at 5 p.m. The event is
free and open to the public for up-close access to air show performers
and aircraft. People, vehicles and bags will be subject to search, but
only purses, diaper bags and small personal bags will be allowed past
the gate. Parking is located at 1175 Airport Access Road, and limited
space is available.
The Blue Angels will perform at three National
Cherry Festival air shows on July 2-4 starting at 1:15 p.m. They will
perform alongside the U.S. Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Air Force
CF-18 demonstration team, Redline Air Shows, Kevin Copeland and Mike
Goulian.

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