Blue Angels dazzle crowds at NAS Jacksonville Air Show

Two-day event started Saturday

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist, Scott Johnson - Reporter, News4Jax.com Staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Blue Angels dazzled crowds Saturday over their original home as part of the two-day Naval Air Station Jacksonville Air Show. 

Aircraft of all shapes and sizes arrived Thursday, making practice runs and gearing up for the show. 

The event is free and open to the public. Gates open at 9 a.m. and the show starts at 10 a.m

The Blue Angels, the Navy's flight demonstration team, originated in 1946 at NAS Jacksonville, where they landed Thursday morning. During this weekend's demonstration, the six FA-18 Hornets will split into formations by way of high-speed passes, slow passes and tight turns. 

"It's certainly a challenging job," said Capt. Ryan Bernacchi, flight leader. "It requires immense focus and just a huge amount of practice, training, discipline."

Bernacchi, who flies Blue Angel No. 1, said the challenges he faces during each demonstrations are ones that he wished to take on as a child.

"I went to air shows as a little kid and I saw the Blue Angels flying A-4s back then. Not really planting a seed, I did some flying with my dad, as well, some private pilot flying," he said. "Seeing the Blue Angels is what made me really want to fly an airplane that said, 'Navy,' on the side."

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Although the job brings challenges, Bernacchi said, the reward of flying with the Blue Angels is much greater.

"We're proud to represent the Navy and the Marine Corps," Bernacchi said. "No matter what your dream is, no matter how hard or out of reach it might seem, don't be afraid to chase it. Go for it, and don't be afraid to make mistakes along the way."

The Blue Angels have performed at more than 30 air shows, with a total of 68 demonstrations, between March and November.

The Blue Angels are joined by St. Augustine's Patty Wagstaff, known as the "First Lady of Aerobatics." She is known internationally for her low-level aerobatic routines.

Also included in the air show will be the U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Team; Sean Tucker’s “Sky Dance”; Smoke-n-Thunder Jet Truck; Matt Chapman’s Viper Jet; Rob Holland’s MXS-RH aerobatic aircraft; Skip Stewart’s Pitts S-2S Special; Matt Younkin’s Super Decathlon; Lee Lauderback’s P-51 Mustang; Randy Ball’s MiG 17F; Bob Carlton’s Super Salto sailplane; U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight; F-15 “Eagle” demonstration; and a P-3C “Orion” and P-8A “Posideon” flyover. 

All air show 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.  

For more details on the NAS Jax Air Show, click here.

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