Blue Angels coming ‘home' Saturday

January 04, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

The Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron is coming home to the Valley on Saturday.

The team will begin flying locally Monday to practice for 70 air shows scheduled for the 2002 season, according to Navy documents.

Naval Air Facility El Centro is the longtime winter home of the Blue Angels. The team's other home is Sherman Field, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

It is common for Valley residents to see the Blue Angels' F/A-18 Hornets practicing their maneuvers and flying the tight four-plane diamond.


More than 15 million people saw the Blue Angels during the 2001 show season. The number includes the fact that several air shows were canceled after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The crowds at air shows increased, many times doubling, after Sept. 11, Blue Angels public affairs officer Lt. Mike Blankenship said.

The first show the Angels flew after Sept. 11 was in Fort Worth, Texas. The Navy expected 50,000 people but more than 100,000 attended the show and that number does not reflect the crowd outside the air field, Blankenship said.

"There is a renewed sense of patriotism. We saw similar crowds at every show after that," he said.

The Blue Angels last show was at Pensacola Beach. The Navy expected over 100,000 spectators but had over 300,000, Blankenship said.

It's motivating to the pilots and ground crew when they see a crowd that big, Blankenship said. It makes the team feel good about being in uniform and being American, he said.

The Blue Angels' show schedule begins March 9 at NAF El Centro and ends in November at Pensacola.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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