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Blue Angels to soar over Central Texas for first time in 30 years

WACO, Texas (KWTX) Central Texans haven’t seen them in decades, but the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels will be headlining the 2018 Heart of Texas Airshow, officials announced Wednesday.

The team hasn’t brought its blue and gold jets to the skies of Waco in more than 30 years.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Blue Angels to Waco,” said Debby Standefer, CEO, Heart of Texas Airshow.

Officials made the announcement at the Texas State Technical College Waco Airport as two pilots flew-in Blue Angel 7 from Myrtle Beach, Florida in advance of next year’s event.

“I played ‘airline pilot’ and gave Dave a little tour as we flew up past San Antonio and Austin, and said how cool it’d be that all these people around Central Texas are going to get to see the Blue Angels in a place that haven’t been able to in a long time,” said Lt. Andre Webb, a U.S. Navy Blue Angel.

Although the team is stationed in Pensacola, Florida for part of the year and El Centro, California for the rest, Webb said he’d spent years in Texas as a flight student and instructor in Corpus Christi before he was an Angel.

He and his teammate stayed in Waco overnight, meeting with city officials and representatives from the FAA to prepare for April’s airshow.

“We’ll look at the airshow itself, we’ll take a look at where we’re gonna park, where we’re gonna go, kind of look at also downtown as far as look at the community, see where we’re gonna stay, what kind of fits our team-needs,” said Lt. David Steppe, U.S. Navy Blue Angel.

Pilots manning six planes will be in Waco for four days; two days of practice, two days of shows.

“We try to perfect every show we go to and every show we do,” said Steppe.

The Navy’s flight demonstration team has been ‘wowing’ crowds since 1946.

“One of the harder things about being on the team is maintaining the legacy of all the guys who’ve come before us and flown for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps,” said Webb.

Becoming an Angel is no easy task, but being one may be even harder; Webb said the team practices 2-3 shows a day, six days a week and has to log 120 training flights before being put out in front of the public.

“You never have that perfect flight,” said Webb.

2018 will be the Blue Angels’ 72nd Anniversary: during that time they’ve performed for nearly half-a-billion fans.

Webb explains what Waco fans can expect to see.

“For an hour or so they’ll get to see our C-130 aircraft ‘Fat Albert’ fly its demonstration, and then for the next 45 min they’ll see our six F-18s fly their demonstration,” said Webb.

“They’ll get to see all of our maintainers running around showcasing the teamwork we are so proud of.”

The Blue Angels are famous for their precision air-combat maneuvers; some are done only 18-inches apart.

“Expect to see four jets precision-flying,” said Steppe.

Some of the maneuvers take place at speeds as fast as just under Mach 1, and as slow as 120 miles per hour.

The planes can reach speeds just under Mach 2, or 1,400 miles per hour – that’s about twice the speed of sound.

“We really want to extend a warm invitation to everybody in the area to come in April to see these guys perform,” said Carson Pearce, Transportation Director at TSTC.

“They’re awesome,” he said.

But the Angels’ visit won’t be all about the show.

While in Waco, they’ll also be going to local schools to recruit and meet the community.

“It’s getting to work in probably one of the highest-functioning and coolest teams with the coolest mission, getting out to meet people all around America and show them what the Navy and Marine Corps are all about,” said Webb.

The Blue Angels will be performing over the two-day, Heart of Texas Airshow April 7-8, 2018.

“Only a few places in the country receive this honor and we are so proud to share this patriotic opportunity with the people of Central and North Texas as well as those throughout the state, and to further our mission to honor our military services and inspire our youth to be involved in aviation,” said Standefer.

Webb and Steppe will leave Waco Thursday afternoon to fly to Saint Joseph, Missouri for a briefing on the airshow they’ll be doing for them next year, too.

In total, six performing jets along with one two-seater and 65 support team members put it on.

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