F/A-18 Hornets tumbling through the air at speeds upwards of 700 miles per hour, daring dives just under the speed of sound — It’s not a dog fight, just some of the stunts you can see at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station Saturday and Sunday.
For the first time in more than two decades, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels will host their adrenaline rushing performance in Kern County, bringing with them planes like the F8F Bearcat and Spitfire MK XIV to the China Lake Air Show in Ridgecrest.
“It’s a great airshow and a great showing of airmanship,” said 1st District Kern County Supervisor and retired Navy Capt. Mick Gleason.
“The fact that they’re coming out here is just another notch in the gun and another example of the great things we do out here in Kern County,” he said.
The show has been an economic boom for the community as well, with projections for event attendance at around 30,000 people over the course of two days, said Daniel Spurgeon, treasurer at the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce and general manager of the area’s Marriott Hotel.
“The whole town will be sold out tonight — this weekend we’re a hundred percent. It’s a big draw,” Spurgeon said. “We have a handful of rooms left out of eleven hundred, while on a typical weekend we book around 450.”
Those attending will also have a chance to see the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Team, The Black Daggers, and the area’s local VX-9 Squadron.
The showcase is part of a 70-year tradition that began at the end World War II when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Chester W. Nimitz helped create a flight demonstration team to foster public interest in naval aviation.
“It’s glorious; I invite everyone to see it,” Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said. “It’s amazing this week. I’ve been watching the practice and the first time they came over at 400 feet making those 90-degree turns, everyone asked what it was. And you know what? It was the sound of freedom.”