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Saturday’s canceled show leaves fans, pilots disappointed

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Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, Blue Angel Pilot
Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, Blue Angel Pilot

Lincoln, NE (KOLN) — Heavy smoke filtered into Lincoln from wildfires in Minnesota and Canada on Saturday afternoon grounding the Blue Angels from performing at the Guardians of Freedom Airshow.

“I don’t blame ’em, if I couldn’t see them, you know, and I’m in the middle of the runway then they can’t see each other when they’re at opposite ends of the runway, so I don’t blame ’em at all,” said Andy Smith who went to Saturday’s show and was back out on Sunday.

“It was kinda sad though, to hear that they were cancelled,” added Tyler Schuster.

The cancellation didn’t just leave the fans disappointed, it left the Blue Angels pilots disappointed too.

“We put in a lot of work each weekend, like I said, we flew three times before our performance yesterday to make sure that we put on the best possible show we could on Saturday afternoon, so to go out in front of 100,000 people and then have to not perform is an incredible let down,” said Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, a Blue Angel pilot. “There’s nothing more heartbreaking than having to walk back to the crowd line after you were unable to perform.”

For the elite pilots these shows are about having fun, but also about being safe, especially when it comes to visibility.

“There’s a very basic minimum of 1,000 feet of cloud ceilings and 3 nautical miles of visibility and that is a FAA imposed restriction, that’s what they call visual flight rules,” said Lt. Chamberlain.

With the heavy smoke moving into Lincoln though, visibility was recorded right at three miles, so the Blue Angels sent up “Fat Albert”, one of their planes for a weather reconnaissance flight.

“They gave us a report that basically said, unfortunately due to the visibility issues we wouldn’t be able to put on a safe demonstration and that was why we made the decision to cancel yesterday’s performance,” said Chamberlain.

Lt. Chamberlain equates trying to fly in Saturday’s smoke to drivers attempting to drive in thick fog, except the planes are going a bit faster.

“If you’re trying to find an airplane that you need to cross 50 feet from at 800 MPH of closure, you want to make sure that you see that airplane well past two or three miles,” said Chamberlain on Sunday afternoon.

Thankfully after Saturday’s show was canceled, the Blue Angels did get into the air on Sunday despite Lincoln’s sky still being a bit hazy and for fans and pilots alike, it was well worth the wait.

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