The U.S. Navy Blue Angels streaked above Pensacola Beach and downtown Pensacola late Monday as they returned to their home base for the 2017 air show season.
“They are the best. We wanted to come out and show our support,” said Christina Madarena, of Pensacola, who took her young children downtown for the flyover.
The family shared a pizza at an outdoor table and waited for the 5 p.m. flyover.
Amateur photographer Dan Delp stood nearby with his camera set to multi-shoot to capture the six F/A-18 Hornets flying in formation down Palafox Street. He said the multi-shot setting was the easiest way to capture the fast-moving jets.
“I’ve been to a number of shows, and they are fun to try and shoot,” he said.
Crowds also gathered on Pensacola Beach to cheer the elite military fighter jet demonstration team’s return to Naval Air Station Pensacola from winter training at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California. The team had been at El Centro since early January preparing for the 2017 season, which started March 11 with the annual season-opening show at El Centro.
The team is scheduled to fly at the Wings Over The Golden Isles Air Show in Brunswick, Georgia, on Saturday and Sunday.
The popular practice demonstrations and autograph signing sessions at Pensacola Naval Air Station’s National Naval Aviation Museum are scheduled to resume on March 28, according to the museum’s website. During the practices, the team performs a full show for fans gathered near the flight line outside the museum.
“It’s great to have them back,” Malesa Redish said Monday afternoon as she waited on Palafox Street for the flyover. Redish, who was with her three young children, said her family loves the team.
“Even though they sometimes fly over our house during nap time,” she joked, pointing to her 2-year-old daughter.
For the 2017 season, the team has three new demonstration pilots.
During winter training, the new pilots learn the Blue Angel maneuvers and get used to flying in the team’s hallmark formations with the experienced pilots.
Blue Angel pilots come from the Navy and Marine Corps fleet and typically serve two-year tours with the team before returning to other duties.
Pilots selected for the team must adapt to flying without the traditional G-suits worn by other fighter jet pilots and to flying with a 40-pound spring attached to the flight stick of their F/A-18 Hornet.
The G-suits, used to keep blood in the upper body and prevent pilots from passing out, have inflatable bladders in the legs that can interfere with a pilots’ ability to control the flight stick. The Blue Angels instead use abdominal exercises and breathing techniques to fight the G forces. The 40-pound spring on the flight stick allows for more-precise control of the jet. The six jets typically fly in formations with their wingtips just inches apart.
The 2017 Pensacola Beach Blue Angels Air Show is scheduled for July 8, and the Homecoming Air Show at Naval Air Station Pensacola is set for Nov. 11 and 12.