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Key West air show gives a sneak preview of the Smoky Mountain Air Show

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KEY WEST, Fla. (WATE) – Two weeks ahead of the Smoky Mountain Air Show, WATE 6 On Your Side Anchor Ryan O’Donnell got a behind-the-scenes look at a very similar air show in Key West, Florida, learning how it all comes together.

In terms of size and acts, the air show in Key West is very similar to the one planned in East Tennessee. The main act, of course, is the Blue Angels, just like in Tennessee.

Friday was practice day as the pilots got a run-through before the two day show this weekend. It’s a special year for the Blue Angels as they celebrate 70 years wowing crows at air shows and events across America and promoting the military.

Commander Ryan Bernacchi pilots the number one plane. He joined the team in November and remembers seeing the Blue Angels when he was a kid in California. Now, he’s the one putting on the show.

“I was surprised by the reaction that we have from the public when you just see a kid’s face light up. I didn’t know what that would look like from this perspective and so that was a very pleasant surprise and I knew it would be very challenging on the other side of it. So I was bracing for that and was very eager to jump into it and learn how to fly the demo,” said Bernacchi.

LIke the Smoky Mountain Air Show, once the Blue Angels committed, it was time to lock in all the other performers. That includes civilian acts like Matt Younkin, who’ll be showing off some pretty amazing aerobatic maneuvers in Key West and at the Smoky Mountain Air Show.

Organizers say it’s a lot of work, but very rewarding in the end.

More coverage: Countdown to the Air Show

“It’s been about a year and a half in the making to put on this air show. Once the Blues told us that they selected us as a spot, we start reaching out for sponsorship to make the show bigger, better, more fun, reaching out for civilian acts and just really as it gets closer now, you can tell by my sunburn, we just really are ramping up for this weekend,” said Trice Denny with Naval Air Station Key West public affairs.

Air shows are more than just the performances in the air. You’ll be able to see a lot of planes on the ground where you can walk up, touch them and maybe even talk to the pilots about what it’s like to fly the planes.