Naval flight team highlights Grand Junction airshow
Grand Junction isn’t exactly a Navy town, but it may seem that way this weekend when Grand Valley residents get to see something that doesn’t often come to town: The U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels.
That crack aeronautical squadron will be in Mesa County for the 2019 Grand Junction Airshow.
The last time the Blue Angels were in town was back in 2012. Its Air Force counterpart, the Thunderbirds, have been here more often, most recently in 2015 and 2017.
The Blue Angels, based at Naval Air Station Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle and the older of the two, formed in 1946 to help increase the public’s awareness of naval aviation and boost Navy morale, not to mention help with recruitment. The Thunderbirds, which was formed in 1953, is based at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.
While the Blue Angles have gone through numerous aircraft, planes flown now are the F/A 18 Hornet C and D models, which are upgrades to the Hornets the team flew for more than 20 years. The Navy is transitioning the newer Super Hornets into its combat forces.
Like the Thunderbirds, the Blue Angels have eight main pilots who perform aeronautical maneuvers, from traditional diamond formation rolls to spectacular fleur-de-lis (you’ll know it when you see it).
The Blue Angels aren’t the only military-based team to perform at this year’s air show. The Golden Knights will also highlight the event.
No, that’s not the Vegas hockey team of NHL fame, but the U.S. Army’s Parachute Team. Along with the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, the Golden Knights are one of three official Defense Department aerial demonstration teams.
Though lesser known, they are no less exciting to watch. The demonstration team, made up of 25 enlisted personnel, perform high in the sky without the aid of an aircraft, at least after jumping out of one.
The team, which was formed in 1959, performs colorful skydiving routines and parachute close encounters.
Other aerial acts include the Rower Airshows, the Vampire Airshow, the Power Addiction Airshow and the mini-jet airshow. Additionally, spectators can experience what it’s like to fly through the Dash Aerosports, which uses a 360-degree camera seen through virtual reality goggles. Other on-the-ground events include historic aircraft and exotic cars.
Sponsored by West Star Aviation, the airshow dates to barnstorming days of 1912, when the first flight took place at what was then Mesa County Fairgrounds when it was located at what is now Lincoln Park.