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Fans watch Blue Angels first practice of 2017

The Blue Angels perform maneuvers during their first practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, outside the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.(Photo: Gregg Pachkowski/gpachkowski@pnj.com)
The Blue Angels perform maneuvers during their first practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, outside the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. (Photo: Gregg Pachkowski/gpachkowski@pnj.com)

Thousands of enthusiastic fans were on hand Tuesday to watch the Blue Angels’ first public practice of the 2017 show season.

The crowd began lining up before 8 a.m. to catch the 11:30 a.m. performance outside the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Judy Morrissey, who was among the first in line, said the hour-long show was well worth the wait.

“I just want to get up there with them. It was so beautiful,” Morrissey said after the show.

The six F/A-18 Hornet pilots performed many of the team’s signature maneuvers and some new ones. Museum volunteers said the crowd neared 6,000.

“We hadn’t seen them for a few years, and this was just fantastic,” Nancy Huffine, a tourist from West Frankfort, Illinois, said after the show. Huffine and her family didn’t realize the Blue Angels would be flying Tuesday when they made their museum visit.

“It was an unexpected treat,” she said.

Hundreds of people wait in line on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, to watch the Blue Angels’ first public practice of the season at Pensacola Naval Air Station. (Photo: Gregg Pachkowski‏/gpachkowski@pnj.com)

Fans packed the 1,000-seat viewing platform, a grassy hill behind the platform and the standing-room section nearby.

Zach Howard, 2, was among the youngest fans in the crowd. Wearing a Blue Angels baseball cap, he pointed to the sky enthusiastically as the jets got ready to take off.

His father, Jeff Howard, said he has been watching the team since he was 5. The Pensacola man said he wanted to share the experience with his young son.

Seeing the first Pensacola practice of 2017 was special, he said.

“I like to see how close they are together and how fast they fly,” he said.

The team is scheduled to practice again Wednesday. A pilot autograph session is scheduled inside the museum after that practice.

 

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