The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are scheduled to return to Patuxent River Naval Air Station in October for an air show, along with several other performers. It will be the first air show at the installation since 2011.
Representatives from the Blue Angels flew into Pax River in early December to start making arrangements for the air expo, which is scheduled for Oct. 27 to 30.
“There is a huge amount of planning and coordination required in preparation for an airshow, especially one of this magnitude,” Lt. Clay Martin, air show coordinator for Pax River, said in an email.
“The smallest details must be addressed, so the challenge lies in matching personnel to the appropriate areas of responsibility in order to maximize our potential for success and eliminate unnecessary confusion,” he said.
When representatives of the Blue Angels visited Pax River last month, “it allowed us a chance to meet face to face with team members and establish a good working relationship,” Martin said.
“Working with the Blue Angels is highly enjoyable, both because of the prestige that they bring to the show, and because they are very specific and leave no ambiguity in their expectations. What we prepare for their performance typically exceeds all our other performers’ expectations, so it simplifies our preparation for everyone else, too,” Martin said.
Following the air show held at Pax River in 2011, another was scheduled in 2013, “but sequestration [budget] cuts forced the Navy to cancel the Blue Angels performance schedule,” he said. “This had a domino effect on most military-related airshows and essentially forced us to cancel ours, too. Fortunately, our chain of command authorized funding and Blue Angels support for our 2016 show back in mid-2014, which gave us plenty of time to get started on the planning process.”
The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform across the United States this year from March to November at locations ranging from Washington state to Massachusetts.
The Blue Angels are scheduled to fly at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on May 25 for an air show there and again on May 27 for the academy’s graduation flyover.
Two weeks before they arrive at Pax River, the Blue Angels are scheduled to fly in Baltimore on Oct. 15 and 16 as part of the inaugural Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show Baltimore.
Tentatively scheduled to join the Blue Angels at Pax River’s Air Expo on Oct. 29 and 30 are the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs parachute team, the Patriot Parachute team made up of former Navy SEALs, Greg Shelton flying a Super Stearman biplane, Scott Francis flying an MXS aerobatic monoplane, Bill Leff flying a B-25 “Panchito” and Mark Sorenson’s “Hotwire Harry” bush plane comedy act.
Bill Scarafia, executive director of the St. Mary’s County Chamber of Commerce, said it’s likely that air shows at Pax River boost local business, but there is no hard data to show that. “I know it draws people from outside of the county into the county, which is always a good thing,” he said recently, adding that it’s difficult to gauge the economic impact.
“It’s just a matter of what they do when they get here,” Scarafia said of visitors, if they stay at hotels and eat at restaurants.
As people drive into the county toward Pax River, “hopefully it will be an advertisement for St. Mary’s County,” he said.
And with a popular act like the Blue Angels, “there’s a lot of fans. They’re a lot of fans of air shows,” he said.
Air shows have been held at Pax River since 1950 when it was first called the Navy Relief Carnival and held as a fundraiser for the Navy’s charity organization. Patuxent River Naval Air Station was commissioned on April 1, 1943.