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Navy’s Blue Angels Dazzle Crowd

The Navy‘s six Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets
flew above the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity at speeds
topping 600 miles per hour Sunday, spinning and rolling in tight
formations, making ear-deafening noise that capped the day of aerial
performances for about 40,000 people at the Shop ‘n Save Westmoreland
County Airshow.

“Everybody got their money’s worth. We got the entire show in for
Sunday’s performance. We’re really happy with that. We dodged the bullet
with the weather,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the
Westmoreland County Airport Authority.

The Blue Angel pilots dazzled the crowd with 40 minutes of aerial
maneuvers then signed autographs for a very long line of people waiting
to see them.

The sunny, warm day brought out between 40,000 and 50,000 people,
Monzo said. The turnout Saturday was estimated at about 25,000, Monzo
said, well below the estimated 100,000 who crowded the two-day airshow
last year.

Crowds started coming into the airport in the early afternoon, when
the sun came out. It sprinkled a bit until shortly after noon, but none
of the performances was delayed or halted.

There did not appear to be any traffic issues in the morning as
motorists drove into the airport, but a traffic jam lasted more than 45
minutes as patrons sought to leave via Route 981 north toward Route 30.

During breaks in the performances, Spirit Airlines, the lone
scheduled carrier servicing the airport, landed and departed with three
flights, said Jeffrey Minkovich, operations manager for Latrobe Airline
Services, which provides services for Spirit. Two other Spirit flights
arrived before and after the airshow.

To ensure that Spirit passengers did not miss their flights during
the airshow, the Latrobe Air Services notified passengers taking flights
during the weekend to arrive 90 minutes early because of traffic
congestion on roads around the airport.

Parking near the terminal was reserved for Spirit passengers, Minkovich said.

“We kind of loaded for bear,” he said.

Although planes were a little late in departing, Minkovich said the passengers in the terminal did not seem to mind.

“They got a free show,” Minkovich said.

Among those enjoying the Father’s Day aerial performances from the
vantage point of the crowded tarmac were Jeff Gromley and his wife,
Kayla, of Homer City, with their three children, ages 1 to 7.

Holding 1-year-old Xavier, who was clinging to her father’s neck,
Gromley said the noise from the Blue Angels did not seem to bother her
tiny ears.

“The little planes bothered her more,” he said.

Curtis Montague of Harmony enjoyed a Father’s Day with his wife, Misty, and their three youngsters, ages 3 to 7.

“They’re enjoying it,” said Montague, a native of Kilmichael, Miss.
He is in the Pittsburgh region to work on a natural gas pipeline for
Columbia Mid-Stream, which is building about 20 miles of field gathering
pipelines to transport natural gas wellhead production through
Washington County.

For Joe Hartman of Mt. Pleasant, who spent 24 years in the Navy,
watching the F/A-18 Hornets brought back fond memories of his years in
the service, when he saw fighter jets while serving aboard a fleet
tanker in the Pacific Ocean from 1958-64.

Hartman, 78, said he remembers the days when the Blue Angels flew F-14 fighter jets for their aerial show.

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