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Navy’s Blue Angels to take off at Pocono Raceway as LVIA forgoes airshow

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The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will appear at Pocono Raceway in August.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will appear at Pocono Raceway in August.

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LEHIGH COUNTY — Roadwork has grounded Lehigh Valley International Airport’s popular air show for a second year in a row, but fans can catch the Navy’s Blue Angels at Pocono Raceway in August.

Airport officials confirmed Tuesday the late-summer air show, known to attract thousands of spectators, has been canceled this year because of ongoing road construction related to a FedEx Ground facility that’s being built near the airport.

The show was canceled for the same reason last year.

“Airport Road and Race Street are among the primary road access points for the airport,” said Colin Riccobon, a spokesman for Lehigh Valley International Airport. ” … A conscious effort was made not to schedule major special events during the summer that would potentially conflict with construction schedules for road improvements.”

The Blue Angels will perform Aug. 27-28 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, according to a statement from the squadron. Pocono Raceway officials said the show is still in the planning stages and details about ticket prices and show times have yet to be worked out.

“We continue to explore new entertainment opportunities that make sense for Pocono Raceway, its fans and the local community,” Pocono Raceway CEO and President Brandon Igdalsky said in a prepared statement. “We have had preliminary talks with hosting an air show and are excited about the potential if we are able to work out all the details.”

The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach, according to the Navy website.

Planning for an air show generally starts a year in advance in order to coordinate with the performers and federal and state regulatory agencies, Riccobon said. In addition, the show attracts many spectators, and “you don’t want them to sit in traffic,” he said.

More than 40,000 people attended the 2013 air show at Lehigh Valley International Airport. It was the first air show there since 1997, and far exceeded airport officials’ expectations of 10,000 attendees.

The 2014 show drew 34,000 spectators. Even with the addition of some gates and tweaks to the parking process, it still took some visitors an hour to travel the 2 miles between Route 22 and the air show gates on Race Street, according to a Morning Call story on the 2014 show.

This year will mark the 70th anniversary of the Blue Angels, which can’t perform at LVIA due to crowd buffer requirements.

At the end of World War II, Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, the chief of naval operations, ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to keep the public interested in naval aviation. The Blue Angels performed their first flight demonstration in June 1946 at their home base, the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla.

The squadron is known for its signature, six-jet Delta formation. In February, the Blue Angels helped kick off the Super Bowl by flying over 70,000 spectators at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Blue Angels have been training in California for the 2016 air show season and are scheduled to perform 70 demonstrations at 34 locations this year.

“Demonstration sites are selected in support of Department of Defense objectives and in the interest of the armed services, with safety as the primary consideration,” according to the Blue Angels.

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