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Blues return to Valley for training

January 09, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

The Blues are back in town.

Returning to the Imperial Valley for their annual winter training, the Blue Angels arrived at Naval Air Facility El Centro on Wednesday.

The Blue Angels are the U.S. Navy's flight demonstration squadron whose mission is to "enhance Navy and Marine Corps recruiting and to represent the naval service to the civilian community," according to the squadron's Web site.

The Blue Angels have trained in the Imperial Valley, their "winter home," since 1962, according to NAF public affairs officer Chief Donna Corvin.

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Lt. j.g. Michael Blankenship, public affairs officer for the squadron, said that the primary reason the Blue Angels train here every winter is because of the "optimum weather conditions."

Blankenship said the warm and clear weather of the Imperial Valley allows the pilots to fly every day of their six-day-a-week schedule.

For the pilots to perform their first show, each must complete 120 hours of flight training, said Blankenship.

Sixteen officers volunteer for duty with the Blue Angels and the crew is made of men and women from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Three new demonstration pilots have joined the squadron this year: No. 1 Cmdr. Robert A. Ffield, USN, flight leader/commanding officer, No. 3 Lt. Max McCoy, USN, left wing, and No. 7 Lt. Dan Martin, USN, narrator.

The squadron was formed at the end of World War II by then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, who ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team. The team first performed in June 1946.

Today the team performs in 70 shows in 35 cities for more than 15 million spectators each year.

The squadron is stationed at Sherman Field, NAS Pensacola, Fla.

The Blue Angels' 31st annual Air Show in El Centro will be the first show of the squadron's tour season, as is the tradition. Corvin said that this year's air show will feature a special tribute to the Korean War with a dramatization she says is still being planned.

The Blue Angels' Air Show will be at NAF El Centro March 10.

For more information visit the Blue Angels' Web site at www.blueangels.navy.mil

Staff Writer Anthony Longoria can be reached at 337-3452.

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