LYNCHBURG — When Joshua Wilborne graduated from Tunstall High School in 2008 he went straight into the U.S. Navy.
Six years and three deployments later, he was chosen to join the Blue Angels — the Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron made up of skilled Navy and Marine Corps airmen — as a crew chief on one of the seven jets that make up the squadron.
This year, Wilborne is the crew chief of the No. 7 F-18 Hornet, with responsibilities that include working with the jet’s pilot to coordinate all of the show sites and prepare “civilians” chosen to take a ride in the jet, as well as maintain the aircraft.
Wilborne’s jet landed at Lynchburg Regional Airport — where the Blue Angels are participating in the Lynchburg Regional Airshow this weekend — on Wednesday to begin preparations for the arrival of the rest of the squadron Thursday.
“I help set the show site up, acquire the equipment we need and act as liaison for the show site staff and the Blue Angels,” Wilborne said.
At the end of this season, Wilborne will transition back to the fleet Navy — most Blue Angels do three-year assignments to the squadron and rotate out to allow others the chance to participate — and be an engineer on Navy hovercraft.
Wilborne’s mother, Donna Wilborne of Danville, said she was at Lynchburg Regional Airport when her son landed Wednesday.
“It was amazing to watch my son come in on an F-18, stepping off a jet looking so handsome,” Donna said. “It was a one-in-a-lifetime deal. He looked so sharp, I cried; it was a proud moment.”
Wilborne said he doesn’t get a lot of time to visit family.
“I see them maybe once a year, usually a Christmas visit,” Wilborne said. “We don’t get a lot of time off.”
But, he said, he is pleased he was chosen to join the squadron.