Pilots visit to plan their 2018 Cherry Festival performance
TRAVERSE CITY — A streak of blue could be seen flying around Cherry Capital Airport this week.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels made a preseason visit to Traverse City on Monday to work on details for their 2018 National Cherry Festival Air Show performance.
Blue Angels crew members Lt. Andre Webb, No. 7 on the team, and Lt. David Steppe, No. 8, arrived at the airport in the team’s two-seat demonstration F-18 fighter jet for the meeting.
“We’re excited to be back in Traverse City,” Steppe said. “We were not on the team the last time we came here.”
Former Blue Angels crew members shared stories of when they performed in Traverse City, and it was something they “always talked about,” Steppe said.
“We’re always looking to perform in Traverse City — the people and the atmosphere of the National Cherry Festival is always a great time,” he said.
Webb previously visited Traverse City while on a training trip in northern Michigan with the U.S. Navy. His squadron was running drills in Alpena and also Camp Grayling, but on a weekend off decided to visit the Grand Traverse region.
“We had an awesome time and I’m glad to be back,” he said.
The Blue Angels are slated to perform June 30 and July 1 next year during the 92nd Cherry Festival, said Ian Hollands, president of the festival. Cherry Festival crowds typically swell during Blue Angels years.
“There’s just something special about the Blue Angels,” Hollands said. “They love Traverse City and enjoy flying over bay and meeting with our community.”
More details on the 2018 Cherry Festival will be announced in the coming months, he said. The festival runs June 30 to July 7, 2018.
The Blue Angels previously performed in 2016, about a month after a pilot died in a crash during an airshow practiced that suspended demonstration shows in the weeks leading up to the Cherry Festival. The same day as the Blue Angels crash, on June 2, 2016, a Thunderbirds pilot ejected from his aircraft before it crashed during a flyover at an Air Force graduation commencement in Colorado.
On June 23, 2017, a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird pilot flipped onto its top during a familiarization flight ahead of an airshow performance in Dayton, Ohio. The Thunderbirds suspended flight activity for a few weeks and returned to the skies at the 2017 Cherry Festival.