Blue Angels Schedule

Blue Angels first female flight commander to highlight 70th season

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U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season will be highlighted by a new Boss and the squadron's first female flight commander, Capt. Katie Higgins.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season will be highlighted by a new Boss and the squadron’s first female flight commander, Capt. Katie Higgins.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season is set to begin from the desert of southern California on March 12, highlighted by a new Boss and the squadron's first female flight commander.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season is set to begin from the desert of southern California on March 12, highlighted by a new Boss and the squadron's first female flight commander.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season is set to begin from the desert of southern California on March 12, highlighted by a new Boss and the squadron's first female flight commander.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season is set to begin from the desert of southern California on March 12, highlighted by a new Boss and the squadron's first female flight commander.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season is set to begin from the desert of southern California on March 12, highlighted by a new Boss and the squadron's first female flight commander.
U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season is set to begin from the desert of southern California on March 12, highlighted by a new Boss and the squadron's first female flight commander.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels 70th anniversary season is poised for take-off in dramatic fashion from a desert runway in southern California on Saturday highlighted by a new squadron Boss and the first female flight commander.

The Blue Angels conclude six weeks of winter training at NAF El Centro with the first air show of their 70th anniversary on March 12.

America’s Pride, the Blue Angels, will conclude six weeks of winter
training at NAF El Centro with their first air show of the new year on
Saturday afternoon. The team will then prepare for a few days near Los
Angeles and the L.A. County air show the following weekend.

Leading the Blue Angels Delta Team will be incoming Boss Commander
Ryan Bernacchi who will also pilot Angel 1. Bernacchi, a Top Gun
graduate and former instructor pilot, joins the team prepared for a
record 63-day performance schedule.

“It is an absolute honor to have been selected for this prestigious
position,” Naval CDR Bernacchi noted from the El Centro flight line.
“There is a legacy of tradition and excellence within the Blue Angels
squadron, and I look forward to maintaining the high standard of
excellence set before me.”

The six jet pilots ready for the 2016 season includes CDR Bernacchi,
LT. Matt Suyderhoud, LT. Lance Benson, LT. Andy Talbott, LT. Ryan
Chamberlain and Capt. Jeff Kuss. The first four pilots will perform as
the Diamond Team, while Chamberlain and Kuss will soar as the solo
pilots who will put their jets through dynamic, high speed maneuvers.

Marine Captain Katie Higgins will lead the Blues into their 2016
season as command pilot of the team’s show opening C-130T aircraft known
as Fat Albert. Higgins, who in 2014 earned the title as the
Blue Angels first woman aviator, will command the aircraft’s all-Marine
crew during the Blue Angels air show season.

“I’ll be the head of the Fat Albert shop which is very exciting being
able to lead those Marines, and putting my own stamp on Fat Albert,”
Capt. Higgins told this aerospace journalist as she stood near the
hulking transport aircraft. “We’ve worked hard all winter to prepare for
the season ahead.”
Higgins will serve along side Major Mark Hamilton for a second year.
Blues rookie Major Mark Montgomery and five support personnel will soar
aboard the crowd favorite C-130, known inside the Blues office as Bert.

“Now, more than ever before, is the perfect time for females aspiring
for careers as pilots and support crew to pursue their dreams,” Brenda
Little, spokesperson for the GEICO Skytypers, said on Thursday. The
World Famous Skytypers six SNJ2 aircraft will perform over the crowd as
Capt. Higgins and her crew taxis Fat Albert toward the runway.

“Katie is always engaging and quick to share stories about her
experiences as an inspiration to others — young and old,” Little added.
“Women like her have paved the way, however, don’t forget the
longstanding work of Julie Clark, Patty Wagstaff and Jackie B.”

Each of the Blue Angels one hour air show performances begins with
Fat Albert’s 15-minute flight demonstration designed to show the public
the handling characteristics of the C-130. Capt. Higgins and her crew
conclude with a dramatic short landing upon the runway followed by a
full reverse thrust of the aircraft’s four engines. The aft transport
door is then opened all to simulate a C-130 landing on a remote strip to
deploy or recover ground troops.

“What’s awesome about the C-130 and why I love it so much, and why I
will continue to fly it for the rest of my career is that I can do so
many diverse missions,” Higgins said. “I can go from one mission to the
other every single day.” She then began to joke and grin as she added,
“I’m not teasing the jet guys, but they only do fighter attack stuff and
it’s the same thing every day.”

Capt. Higgins takes the honor as the first female Blues pilot with
pride, and uses her fame to promote those individuals who work hard
behind the scenes. Her popular lead as a role model has allowed her to
turn the attention on her to her fellow troops working and fighting away
from home.

“You know I go to 35 different air show sites a year and meet fine
Americans all across our country, and as far as their concern I single
handily fight ISIS; I get thanked for my service and in all reality it’s
the active duty people who are keep us safe,” Capt. Higgins said as she
stood near her aircraft. “I want to take all those ‘thank-yous’ I get
every single day I have on this job and give them to you, because you
guys, the people in uniform, are the ones who truly deserve it. So
thank-you for keeping us safe at home and abroad.”

At the conclusion of this season, both Higgins and Hamilton will
return to the fleet, and Montgomery will slide over to the lead pilot’s
seat. “I’m a Marine at heart so it will be nice to get back to the
Marine Corps. mission, too,” Higgins added with a nod.

Minutes following Bert’s touchdown, the six blue and yellow high
gloss F/A18 Hornets will be ready on the flight line — their engines
warmed up. Each of the aircraft’s pilots having reviewed last minute
preparations begin to taxi out as the headline demonstration and the
final performance of each air show day.

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