Two U.S. Navy Blue Angels advance team pilots say the demonstration squadron is excited to take to the skies next year for the 2018 Owensboro Air Show.
The city of Owensboro booked the elite squad to headline the air show several months ago. Lts. Dave Steppe and Andre Webb held a press conference at MidAmerica Jet on Wednesday to preview the Sept. 14-16 show. The Blue Angels are often considered the pinnacle of modern aerobatic aviation, and they will be making their return to Owensboro for the first time in 26 years.
“We’ve been doing this since 1976,” Steppe said. “We are the oldest U.S. military aerobatic demonstration team. We really haven’t changed much over the years. The only things that have changed are the people and the jets. That’s what makes it special.”
Both pilots spoke in front of a signature F/A-18 Hornet, six of which will form the hallmark of the show. A C-130 Hercules support plane flown by U.S. Marine pilots will also be used. The Blue Angels will perform a 45-minute show with the help of an 85-person support team.
“The show consists of a lot of manuevers either with the two solos flying, demonstrating the high-performance capabilities of the aircraft or the diamond pilots in close formation to display the precision required to do that,” Webb said.
Their primary purpose, Steppe said, is recruiting. Interacting with the communities they entertain is a highlight of the job.
“What makes the air show special for us, though, is the community,” he said. “That community outreach is so important to us. The demonstration is just a small percentage of what we do. When we do arrive here, we’ll have opportunities to go to the schools and hospitals and kind of interact with the people … That is our time to introduce ourselves and let people know that we’re just people who wear blue flight suits and that we’re here to inspire that next young boy or girl who will follow in our footsteps.”
Flying a fighter jet at near-supersonic speeds can be challenging. Pilots under go G-forces equal to the weight of an elephant on the human body, he said. It could be nearly fatal without the proper training and physique.
Mayor Tom Watson said he is proud to play host to the Blue Angels. They will be a fantastic addition to the sixth annual show, he said. The city has paid the Blue Angels $12,000 for their part of the show itself, but more costs will acrue once the show takes place. Public Events Director Tim Ross said those costs may include things such as support aircraft, fuel, travel and food expenses.
The Blue Angels are the only confirmed team for the 2018 show. Ross said he will be prepared to announce at least some of the other teams next month.