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A Blue Angels crew member’s legs leave the floor of the aircraft when Fat Albert defies gravity during one of its maneuvers during the Blue Angels Air Show. Photos by Glenda Caudle | Gulf Breeze News
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Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Reardon provides life support for the Blue Angels team.

Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Reardon experienced his first Beach show Saturday as part of the Blue Angels team providing life support (oxygen systems, parachutes and more) for the six U.S. Navy pilots in the blue and yellow-gold jets and the U.S. Marine Corps pilot maneuvering Fat Albert through the skies.

 

“Our motto is, ‘We’re the last to let you down,’ he said with a friendly grin during last Thursday’s interview with several media members.

“You get an extra pump,” he said of his experience in the Blues’ home base. “People here are great. There is some pressure, but we want to put on a good show every single time.”

Just like the pilots his efforts support, Reardon had to apply to be part of the Blue Angels team and he earned his spot after extensive interviews on site. He will be doing his job in Pensacola for three years and then will return to the fleet, where he said he would “spread the dedication and camaraderie I learned here through the fleet.”

A native of Rosemount, Minn., he has been in the Navy for seven years and is in his first year in Pensacola. Although life-support duties have been his assignment throughout his military experience, he says things are not quite the same in Pensacola as at his other duty stations.

“Here, we are such a small community. Our mission is just a little different. It’s a nice relationship to have. We’re so small and close knit.” PO1 Reardon may never actually sit behind the controls of a Navy jet, thrilling the crowds below with his skill, but he knows his value to the team. Without him and the support system he is part of doing their work to the best of their ability each day, there would be no pilots in the sky or applause on the ground.

 

Top photo: Fat Albert, a C-130 Hercules, is the Blue Angels’ transport plane and a part of the spectacular Blue Angels Air Show.

He’s part of a vital team.

Bottom photos: Fat Albert’s cockpit was on display for the media just before takeoff July 7 for the Pensacola Beach Air Show dress rehearsal. Members of the Fat Albert crew entertained their media visitors with some high-flying antics of their own, mid-flight.

He’s part of a strong family. He’s part of the amazing Blues.

Thanks, PO1 Reardon, and all those who serve with you. You never let us down.

***

Maj. Mark Montgomery of Cartersville, Ga., is the seventh pilot who took part in last weekend’s Blue Angels Air Show. The U.S. Marine Corps officer flies Fat Albert, the blue and yellow-gold C-130 Hercules that serves as transport for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

On Friday afternoon, when he took Fat Albert over Pensacola Beach in a dress rehearsal for the big Saturday show, he was accompanied by nine members of the media. Most of those experienced the roughly 15-minute flight from the body of the plane, which does, indeed, appear to be well-filled out, compared to the sleek jets charged with streaking through the skies in carefully choreographed and synchronized flight patterns for the delight of those on the ground

But Fat Albert and his crew have a charm of their own, and they are

said to be the favorite plane of most children who observe the air show. Perhaps many adults, as well, since the impressive bird is not quite so loud and not quite so fast and hard to follow as his companions in the air.

The plane and crew also have a few tricks up their own sleeves. Media from newspapers, radio and television got a taste of those when Montgomery and Fat Albert “tricked” gravity and had humans on the plane hunkered down as though they had enormous weights dragging them into the depths of their seats one moment, only to free them so quickly and so thoroughly they would have crashed into the

ceiling the next, if not securely belted in, during Friday’s flight.

Fat Albert’s crew even added some “light” moments of their own, streaking through the skies over Pensacola Beach with nothing to anchor them in place but their grips on a ladder bolted securely into place in the middle of Fat Albert’s body. When gravity took its heavy hand off their bodies, they suddenly lost contact with the floor of the plane and did some fancy leg and footwork from their new mid-air horizontal positions for several minutes, before reality set in again.

It was all much to the delight of Big Albert’s guests, who couldn’t see much of the dress rehearsal show in the clouds from their unique location, but who, nevertheless, got some once-in-a-lifetime thrills of their own.

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