JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Blue Angels flew into town Thursday for the 2018 Naval Air Station Jacksonville Air Show this weekend.
News4Jax was on the flight line at NAS Jax as the world-famous squadron touched down Thursday morning.
It was a homecoming of sorts as NAS Jax is the birthplace of the Blue Angels. The Navy’s flight demonstration team performed its first air show in Jacksonville in 1946.
Thousands of families have made it a yearly tradition to watch the air show. In its 72nd year, dozens of performers, planes and pilots will take to the sky Saturday and Sunday. Attendees will also get to see the F/A-18 Hornets up close and personal.
Thursday was also a special homecoming for Jacksonville native Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Williams, who maintains the signature look of the aircraft for the show.
"I haven't been back home in seven years, so it's also an opportunity to come back here and put a show on for the fans and the city," Williams said.
Being a part of the Blue Angels is an honor. The team represents the 800,000 men and women serving in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps worldwide.
Blue Angels Cmdr. Eric Doyle said it takes several months and countless flight hours to make the show come to life.
"Lots of practice," he said.
The pilots also have to build trust. During the show, the jets will fly up to 700 mph, getting as close as 18 inches of each other with precision flying in formations. They'll be sharing the airspace with a dozen other performers, along with planes stationed at NAS Jax.
The air show is free and open to the public. Gates open at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and the show features numerous civilian and military acts. It's recommended that parents and guardians bring ear protection for small children.
All visitors will be directed into the Yorktown and Allegheny gates and will not be allowed south of Yorktown Avenue. Those with authorized base access will be allowed to enter the Birmingham Gate for normal daily business but will not be allowed access to the flight line area.
The Blue Angels team has shifted its performance schedule on Saturday to fly at 12:30 p.m. over NAS Jax. The Blue Angels will depart again at 3 p.m., performing a special flyover to kick off the Georgia-Florida college football game at TIAA Bank Field in downtown Jacksonville, followed by an abbreviated second show over NAS Jax.
On Sunday, the Blue Angels will perform one show at 3 p.m.
For more information on the air show, visit nasjaxairshow.com.
Coast Guard to establish safety zone for air show
Starting Friday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard will establish a 1-square-mile safety zone on the waters of the St. Johns River in the area of NAS Jax. While the aircraft crews are performing, no one will be able to swim or boat within the safety zone.
The safety zone is scheduled to begin Friday at 8 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m. daily, through Sunday.
According to the Coast Guard, the safety zone is necessary to protect the public from hazards associated with aerial flight demonstrations.
No one may enter, travel through, anchor in or remain within the safety zone unless authorized by the Captain of the Port (COTP) Jacksonville or a designated representative.
To request authorization to enter the safety zone, contact the COTP Jacksonville by phone at 904-714-7557, or a designated representative via VHF-FM radio on Channel 16.