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Inspiring others: Blue Angels to perform at Idaho Falls air show

Nate Scott, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, discusses his work as the No. 3 pilot for the Blue Angels, who will perform at the Extreme Blue Thunder Air Show on Saturday and Sunday at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport.

IDAHO FALLS — Nate Scott was 5 years old when he watched the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels fly overhead for the first time.

He started dreaming about becoming a pilot that day in October of 1990 in the San Francisco Bay.

“It kind of just sparked my interest in aviation, and I never in a million years thought that I would be able to be a part of this team,” he said.

Nearly 27 years later, Scott, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, is no longer looking up, but down from a blue and gold F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet. He’s the No. 3 pilot for the Blue Angels — a post he’s held for the past eight months. And he says it’s been a blast.

“I think all of us that are new on the team — we’ve been smiling since we got here,” he said.

Scott, along with the other Blue Angels, will be headlining the Extreme Blue Thunder Air Show set Saturday and Sunday at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport.

Scott, who trained in Mountain Home, said the Navy doesn’t make it to Idaho very often and he’s excited to be here.

He says the Blue Angels team is composed of 130 men and women, from those who fly the jets to those who keep them running. The team includes two Idaho natives who work on the maintenance end of things: Zachary Goodnight, a petty officer first class and an aviation structural mechanic who specializes in egress systems, and Samuel Wiberg, a petty officer who works on airframes.

Both are excited to return to their home state for the show.

“I always joke around and say if I could have joined the Navy and never left Idaho, I would have,” said Goodnight, who is from the Lewiston area.

He says it’s hard for him to be away from Idaho, so he was ecstatic when he saw the state on the schedule for shows this year.

“To be able to have my service and be a part of this team and that cross paths with Idaho is pretty surreal,” he said.

Wiberg, who is from Wendell, says his family will be able to attend the Idaho Falls show this weekend.

“It feels good to be back home,” he said, adding that he’s especially enjoying the weather here.

Working with Goodnight, Wiberg and others on the Blue Angels team is among Scott’s favorite parts of the job. He says everyone is fully dedicated to their mission and they work together to make the impossible possible every day.

“My experience with the team so far has just been super humbling because you come here and you can’t even believe you’re part of it, but then you have to up your game because everybody you’re surrounded with are just the cream of the crop — they’re amazing,” he said.

They all work hard, they all work together and they all take pride in what they do, he said.

Scott says the Blue Angels pilots have to have at least 1,250 flight hours before they can apply. And once you become a Blue Angel, you have to relearn how to fly in someways, he said.

“We fly with a 40-pound spring that attaches to the control stick, (so) we fly in a little bit of a contorted position which allows us to hold that weight back and makes me brace my elbow on my knee,” he said, adding that it took a while to get comfortable with that position.

In addition, he said the high-speed rendezvous and unique formations the Blue Angels do also took him a while to get used to.

Scott said at the beginning of the season, which runs from about January to November, they do 120 training flights. They fly six days a week, multiple times a day, and they work on flying closer and closer together.

“We’re known for our close proximity formation flying more than anything else,” he said, adding that those who attend the Extreme Blue Thunder Air Show this weekend will be able to see those formations.

The Blue Angels also train throughout the week during the season, perform 33 air shows a year and hold regular debriefings to go over their flights and pinpoint and correct any mistakes.

It’s a lot of work, but Scott says he’s enjoying serving on the team he will be on for two years.

He says he especially likes to interact with young kids, like he once was, and get them excited about aviation and their country. But ultimately, he hopes their flights inspire others to pursue their dreams — like he was inspired to do.

“We don’t care if you want to join the military or not. We’re just here to inspire. That’s kind of our underlying mission — to inspire that culture of excellence,” he said. “So, no matter what it is you want to do in life, we want you to pursue that and do so with vigor and just believe in yourself that anything’s possible.”

Scott says he excited to show people what the Blue Angels can do as a team at the air show this weekend, and he encourages people to attend.

“It will be a good time,” he said.

Gates at the event open at 9 a.m., planes are in the air at 12:10 p.m., and gates close at 5 p.m. For more information about the Extreme Blue Thunder Air Show, visit www.idahofallsairshow.com.

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