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Wings Over South Texas Airshow wows fans, honors vets

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Lt. Lance Benson brings the Left Wing number 3 into position after flying into NAS Kingsville on Thursday, April 7.
Lt. Lance Benson brings the Left Wing number 3 into position after flying into NAS Kingsville on Thursday, April 7.

    The excitement was barely contained as the crowds watched the sky above their heads. The Blue Angels performed each stunt flawlessly to the cheers and applause of the crowd at Naval Air Station Kingsville. Children could be seen pointing in the air trying to spot where the jets would be coming from next as the announcer described each maneuver over the PA system.

    The 2016 Wings Over South Texas Air Show was held Saturday, April 9 and Sunday, April 10 at NAS Kingsville and was free to the public with a meet and greet for the public on Friday, April 8 at the J.K. Northway Coliseum at Dick Kleberg Park. This year’s air show was dedicated to Vietnam Veterans as a way to show them the appreciation that they deserve.

    The highlight of the airshow is the U.S. Navy Blue Angels squadron. Pilots go through rigorous training in order to fly in the Blue Angels. According to pilot Lt. Lance Benson, flight school for active duty pilots typically lasts from two to three years and the Navy only selects pilots for the Blue Angels after they have had at least a three year sea tour as a pilot on a base or carrier. The rotation is a sea tour followed by a show tour that also lasts for three years. “The first year, I was rushed into job shadowing at the end of the year. It’s very rewarding,” said Benson. “Right now I’m the Left Wing, but I’d like to work my way up to the Slot position.” The four positions are lead, right and left wings, and slot. The pilot in the slot is responsible for the making sure that all maneuvers are done safely and that the pilots are properly trained. Benson noted that the pilots would not be able to do their jobs were it not for the efforts of the maintainers who go over each and every plane making sure they are in peak condition. “We have a crew of 100 maintainers that make sure that everyone is 100 percent safe,” said Benson, “We don’t even have to check the jets when we get in because of the great job that they do.”

    AME1 Andy Teague is one of the maintainers entrusted with the responsibility of servicing the F/A-18C Hornet jets that make up the Blue Angels squadron. “I work in the Life Support center, making sure that all systems that keep the pilot safe are all working properly,” said Teague. The pilots put all of their trust into the maintainers to make sure every flight goes well. “Being a part of the Blue Angels is a dream come true, I jumped on it the first chance that I had. I plan on staying in the Navy for at least 20 years if I’m allowed” said Teague, “This is the best decision that I’ve ever made.”

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