PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team is 73 years old. But when you are a Blues pilot, the time passes in a blink of the eye.
“This job, this team, it goes so fast, so intense,” said Capt. Eric C. Doyle/USN who flies jet #1 and is the flight leader and commanding officer of the Blue Angels.
What you’ll see at this weekend’s annual air show over Pensacola Beach represents months of intense training. That training begins every November in Pensacola and then moves to the warmer climate of El Centro, California.
“We start flying here in Pensacola, out there over the water, where we just get down to the basics. Taking off together. Turning the smoke on together. Getting clear formations. Then we really build the team in El Centro, where we are for almost 3 months.”
During flight demonstration season, the Blues get one day off-Monday. The other days they are either practicing, in transit to the next air show, or performing in a show.
“Being a Blue Angel is hard work,” says Doyle adding, “I get up every morning because I get to do this. It’s hard, but I love it and I wouldn’t do anything else.”
The Blues are about halfway through their 2019 flight demonstration schedule. That means they’ve flown a lot of shows… but it never gets old. Perhaps because they never know when something new will come up… like the opportunity to fly over the nation’s capital at this year’s 4th of July celebration.
“Just to fly in that airspace itself. It’s a prohibited airspace that most people don’t get to fly in,” said Doyle. “To fly over our nation’s capital, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol building and to see all those sights was very awe inspiring and humbling,” said Doyle.
Doyle says it’s also humbling to observe the sense of community that the Pensacola area has with the Blue Angels.
“Pensacola is our most important show, most important for us. There’s always a big crowd here on Pensacola Beach. And not only on the beach but the boats. There are boats everywhere!”
Doyle adds that the appreciation the Blue Angels receive from the community is evident in many ways, not just in the turnout for the air shows.
“This community embraces this team, the Blue Angels and the Navy and they take care of our families when we’re gone and it’s just a special place,” said Doyle.
Doyle says because of their rigorous schedule, the Blue Angels miss many holidays and other special moments with family. But this week, there was one family moment he didn’t miss- his 9 year old daughter’s birthday.
“I want to wish a happy 9th birthday to my daughter, Eloise,” Doyle told reporters, before leaving the interview area and heading to the rest of the team to prepare for the afternoon practice above Pensacola Beach.