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Blue Angels ready for air show

U.S. Navy Blue Angels over Millville airport late Thursday. The Millville Wheels & Wings 2017 Airshow starts Saturday and the squadron is the featured act.(Photo: Jose Moreno/Staff Photographer)

MILLVILLE – The workup to this weekend’s 2017 Millville Wheels & Wings Airshow accelerated on Thursday with the arrivals hours apart of five U.S. Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornets and their support team at the municipal airport.

U.S. Navy Blue Angels member Lt. Brandon Hempler landed his F-18 Hornet at the Millville Airport Wednesday afternoon. Video produced by Justin Odendhal

The five Hornets joined another jet from the squadron that had arrived Wednesday afternoon with the unit narrator and a crew chief. Adverse weather on Thursday delayed the Blue Angels support team reaching Millville until about 11:30 a.m., instead of a planned 10 a.m., and the F-18s until a little before 4 p.m., instead of at noon.

Pilots go show-to-show in their F-18 Hornets, but supplies and about 60 support personnel are moved around in a Marine Corps C-130 Hercules transport.

It’s a herculean task making that four-engine transport stealthy, but not impossible with the low, thick rain clouds over the airport. Passing overhead before circling to land, the C-130 appeared as a loud but ghostly outline in the sky.

Nose-on view of an U.S. Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornet, sitting outside a hangar Thursday morning at Millville airport. (Photo: Jose Moreno/Staff Photographer)

Visibility was a lot better by the time the rest of the Blue Angels set down. Pilots had planned to log some air time midafternoon Thursday to familiarize themselves with landmarks. Their full rehearsal show is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday.

The Blue Angels are the headline act for Wheels & Wings Airshow. The squadron is shy one Hornet that is grounded for repairs, which has meant canceling much sought-after public relations rides.

The roughly 60-member support team for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels heads off after a post-landing briefing at Millville airport Thursday morning. The team arrived on a Marine Corps C-130 transport. Preparations for the Millville’s Wheels & Wings 2017 Airshow featuring The U.S. Navy Blue Angels. (Photo: Jose Moreno/Staff Photographer)

The squadron also is missing Fat Albert, the nickname for the C-130 that normally handles its transportation needs. The Marine Corps has provided a substitute C-130 and crew drawn from the “Rangers,” a Reserve squadron at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Reserve Base in Texas.

C-130 Marine pilots John Lawton and Daniel Austin, both majors, were detailed to the Blue Angels support team about three weeks ago and expect to stay with it well into June. It’s an assignment that basically is not too different from other jobs, although there are perks.

Plane No. 2 of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels sits near a taxiway at Millville airport Thursday morning. The Blue Angels are flying in the Millville’s Wheels & Wings 2017 Airshow on Saturday and Sunday. (Photo: Jose Moreno/Staff Photographer)

“You get a little more VIP treatment, I guess,” Austin laughed.

“Yeah. The hotels are nice,” Lawton said. “It’s definitely nice to travel with them and be part of their crew and see how they do business.”

Not surprisingly for career pilots, Lawton and Austin both are Blue Angels fans.

This Marine Corps C-130 Hercules transport plane is on loan to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels until their regular C-130, Fat Albert, is ready to fly again. The replacement plane is from an air base in Fort Worth, Texas. It landed Thursday morning at Millville airport. (Photo: Jose Moreno/Staff Photographer)

“You never get tired of seeing them fly,” Lawton said. “Whether you saw them 10 years ago or yesterday, it’s a treat.”

Wheels & Wings is the key fundraiser in any year for its sponsor, the Millville Army Air Field Museum. David Schultz Airshows LLC is coordinating the event for the museum. An appearance by a unit such as the Blue Angels pretty much locks in success for the event, if the weather cooperates.

Touchdown on Thursday of a U.S. Navy Blue Angels F-18 Hornet at Millville airport. (Photo: Jose Moreno/Staff Photographer)
Precision formation flying by these U.S. Navy Blue Angels jets on Thursday is what the squadron will bring to this weekend’s Millville Wheels & Wings 2017 Airshow. (Photo: Jose Moreno/Staff Photographer)

The air show also comes in a special year, the 75th anniversary of the opening of the airport as an Army Air Corps base. The airfield opened before the United States entered World War II, training about 10,000 airmen during the war.

This Memorial Day weekend air show would be the third Blue Angels appearance in Millville since 2003 and the first since 2007. This air show also is the unit’s only performance in New Jersey in 2017, which is anticipated to boost interest among the region’s aviation fans.

The Blue Angels and the museum are keeping an eye on the weather. Blue Angels performances usually go for 40 minutes.

Blue Angel No. 7 U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brandon Hempler taxis Flying Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet No. 2 at the Millville Airport on Wednesday, May 24. (Photo: Justin Odendhal/Staff Photo)

“We always hope for the best weather possible so we can go full high show,’”pilot and narrator Lt. Brandon Hempler said on Wednesday. “However, we have multiple shows that we can do. All the way down to a 1,000-foot ceiling, we can do a show. May not be the high, quick climbs and stuff, but it’ll be definitely some close formation flying still, even though we’ll stay lower.”

Blue Angel No. 7 U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brandon Hempler shakes hands with Millville Mayor Michael Santiago at the Millville Airport on Wednesday, May 24. (Photo: Justin Odendhal/Staff Photo)

While the Blue Angels are the main aerial attraction, the ground components to the event are strong.

The South Jersey Cruisers Association is expecting as many as 300 classic antique cars and trucks as well as modern muscle cars, according to association director Ben Notaro.

Blue Angel No. 7 U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brandon Hempler taxis Flying Blue Angels McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet No. 2 at the Millville Airport on Wednesday, May 24. (Photo: Justin Odendhal/Staff Photo)

The classic car show is open to all classic car clubs and individuals with show car or trucks. Registration is from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. There will be trophies for the top 20 cars and a best-of-show car presented at 3 p.m. on both days.

U.S. Marine Corps Major John Lawton (left) and Major Daniel Austin are flying the C-130 Hercules transport that moves supplies and personnel for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Their plane, part of a Reserve unit in Fort Worth, Texas, landed Thursday morning at Millville airport. Preparations for the Millville’s Wheels & Wings 2017 Airshow featuring The U.S. Navy Blue Angels. (Photo: Jose Moreno/Staff Photographer)

For more information about the air show, visit MillvilleAirshow.com or call the museum at (856) 327-2347. Emails can also be sent to airshow Director Lisa Jester at ljester@p47millville.org.

For more information about the car show, contact John Wolfe at (856) 825-3047.

The program for Saturday and Sunday is as follows:

9 a.m. – Gates open

11:30 a.m.- Temporary Flight Restrictions in effect for airshow

11:45 a.m.- Opening ceremony

Noon – National anthem with Skydive Cross Keys Flag jump

12:06 p.m. – Skydive Cross Keys Mass Exit Parachute Demonstration

12:16 p.m. – L Bird and PT Flight

12:31 p.m. – Greg Shelton PT-17 Stearman Solo

12:46 p.m. – SNJ Flight

12:56 p.m. – Kevin Russo SNJ-6 Demonstration

1:11 p.m. – USCG MH-65D Dauphin Search and Rescue Demonstration

1:21 p.m. – Greg Shelton FM2 Wildcat Demonstration

1:36 p.m. – Paul Dougherty Christian Eagle Aerobatics

1:46 p.m. – N.J. ArNG/ANG UH-60 SPIES Demonstration

1:56 p.m. – B-25 Panchito demonstration (non-aerobatic)

2:11 p.m. – Jacquie B Airshow Extra 300

2:26 p.m. – Greg Shelton with Ashley Shelton Wingwalking

2:39 p.m. – Scott Francis MX2 Aerobatics

2:54 p.m. – USMC Blue Angels C-130T Hercules Demonstration

3:04 p.m. – USN Blue Angels Demonstration

5 p.m. – Gates Close. Airshow Ends. Temporary Flight Restrictions End.

 

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