Thunderbirds Join Blue Angels in California for Winter Information Exchange.

Top U.S. Demo Teams Gather at NAF El Centro, California to Share Best Practices.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet demonstration teams are meeting this week to compare notes and share ideas on precision jet team operations. The two teams have converged at Naval Air Facility El Centro in southern California.

While the two teams will not fly together or perform their normal demonstration routines during the meeting, the summit will, no doubt, provide some unique flying moments for fans gathered at the popular observation areas outside the fence surrounding El Centro, including one that made social media news during a spectacular low transition take-off above aviation photographers earlier this year.

“There are no scheduled performances during this exchange however, training flights with similar profiles to the air show routine may be conducted in accordance with annual training objectives. Each team is currently in the middle of their winter training cycles,” said a report published today in the Imperial Valley Desert Review, a news outlet close to El Centro.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, the new Commander of the Blue Angels, told reporters, “I am incredibly excited to share the world class training facilities here in El Centro with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Our time in El Centro is crucial for transitioning in new pilots, training support and maintenance personnel, and preparing the aircraft for the high operating tempo of the air show season. This is a phenomenal opportunity to meet and integrate with our U.S. Air Force counterparts and share best practices. Undoubtedly the interaction between our teams this week will lead to safer and more effective flight demonstrations.”

The last time the USAF Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels performed at the same venue was in 2019 at Joint Base Andrews Air & Space Expo in Maryland in May.

The summit of the top U.S. jet teams comes on the same weekend as the Heritage Flight Conference at Davis-Monthan AFB near Tucson, Arizona, where aircraft and flight crews who participate in the multi-aircraft, mixed formation Heritage Flights are renewing certifications for airshow demonstration with governing authorities.

Both activities are key to preparation for the U.S. airshow season which begins in March with the first performances of the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. The Blues will start their demo season on March 14, 15 at the El Centro Airshow in California and the Thunderbirds kick off the season on March 14, 15 at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, Texas.

The contrast between the two major U.S. military jet demo teams is interesting since the Thunderbirds fly the small, lightweight, single engine F-16 and the Blue Angels are beginning their last season with the larger, twin engine F/A-18 Hornet before transitioning to the newer, larger Super hornet in 2021.

Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. John Caldwell, commander of the team, told assembled media that, “Training with the Blue Angels, on the ground and in the air, is a very unique and valuable experience. Our squadrons have a similar mission set and share the same goal of providing an impeccable demonstration for our upcoming shows during the 2020 season. We deeply appreciate the expertise and operational knowledge the Blue Angels bring to our shared mission and look forward to enhancing our operations from this joint exchange.”

The information exchange will last from February 25 through the 29th at El Centro before the teams return to their regular preparations before the start of the 2020 airshow season.

 

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Thunderbirds to begin 4 days’ joint training with Blue Angels

EL CENTRO — The U.S. military’s two premier flight demonstration squadrons will both be here in the sun’s winter home for four days, starting today.

The U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, are due to land at Naval Air Facility El Centro at 10:30 a.m. to begin what a press release described “an information exchange … to share squadron best practices and lessons learned before both teams begin their respective 2020 show seasons.” The Air Force team will be here until Saturday.

There are no scheduled performances during this exchange however, training flights with similar profiles to the air show routine may be conducted in accordance with annual training objectives. Each team is currently in the middle of their winter training cycles.

“I am incredibly excited to share the world class training facilities here in El Centro with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds,” said Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, the Blue Angels commanding officer and flight leader. “Our time in El Centro is crucial for transitioning in new pilots, training support and maintenance personnel, and preparing the aircraft for the high operating tempo of the air show season. This is a phenomenal opportunity to meet and integrate with our U.S. Air Force counterparts and share best practices. Undoubtedly the interaction between our teams this week will lead to safer and more effective flight demonstrations.”

The last time the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds performed together was at the Joint Base Andrews Air and Space Expo. May 11-12, 2019. The two teams are not scheduled to perform together during the 2020 show season.

“Training with the Blue Angels, on the ground and in the air, is a very unique and valuable experience,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds commander and leader. “Our squadrons have a similar mission set and share the same goal of providing an impeccable demonstration for our upcoming shows during the 2020 season. We deeply appreciate the expertise and operational knowledge the Blue Angels bring to our shared mission and look forward to enhancing our operations from this joint exchange.”

The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 55 flight demonstrations at 29 locations across the United States and Canada. The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach. Since 1946, the Blue Angels have performed for more than 496 million fans.

This marks the Thunderbirds 67th year representing the U.S. Air Force. The Thunderbirds in 2020 are scheduled to perform 67 demonstrations at 35 locations across the United States and Canada. The Thunderbirds mission is to recruit, retain and inspire past, present and future Airmen while showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of America’s Airmen.

For more information about the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, including the 2020 air show schedule, visit www.blueangels.navy.mil and www.afthunderbirds.com.

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U.S. Navy jet makes Idaho Falls stop

DAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK)-People who live in Idaho Falls may have heard the roar of jet engines Sunday.

The roar was familiar to those who have hear the Navy’s Blue Angels firing up during frequent Idaho Falls visits.

In this case,the Idaho Falls Fire Department checked it out. The roar was that of a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet that landed at Aero Mark at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport for service. It is the model of F-18 the Blue Angels will begin flying next year.

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Offutt Airman inducted into the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame

At just 8 years old, Roy Kessell’s drive for flying took off after his father, a World War II veteran, took him to see the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron.

From that point, it was Kessell’s mission to become a pilot, and he did just that.

After a lifelong career of flying and teaching, the retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel was inducted into the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame on Jan. 23. He’s the third member inducted from the 55th Wing.

“I’m very honored by it,” Kessell said. “I’m humbled by this, too, because, like I said, there’s people in there that have done a lot of stuff.”

Created in 1991, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame honors aviators of all types, including pilots and navigators, designers and manufacturers and airport managers. Those chosen must be nominated and native-born Nebraskans or have completed the bulk of their aviation work while living in the state.

Kessell earned a degree in civil engineering from the United States Air Force Academy before attending flight school at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. There, he climbed to becoming a supersonic T-38 Talon instructor and check pilot.

He was later stationed at Offutt Air Force Base where he flew RC-135’s and served as a weatherman.

After 22 years of service, Kessell retired from the military in 1993, but couldn’t shake his love of flying.

He began teaching students to fly at the Offutt Aero Club and at the Plattsmouth Municipal Airport, where he later served as the airport manager. He co-founded the flight school, Flight! Nebraska Group.

He’s earned several awards, including the Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership’s Lt. Col. Charles A. Lane Innovative Partnership Award for flying underprivileged kids around in attempts to get them interested in aviation.

The longest he’s flown in one stretch was 24 hours out of Athens, Greece, over Saudi Arabia.

His favorite part of flying, Kessell said, is getting to travel. He also loves seeing the world from above at night, especially once he’s able to use autopilot and just watch.

“I just observe — watching the instruments and that everything’s going good — but watching the world go by,” Kessell said.

Kessell is now president of the Heartland/LeMay chapter of the U.S. Air Force Academy Association of Graduates, a nonprofit U.S. Air Force Academy alumni association that funds school programs. The chapter is one of 21 worldwide that meets the criteria to be a distinguished chapter.

He landed a job flying doctors around in a Cessna 421 a few times each month. He also occasionally takes his own Fouga Magister to air shows.

“My wife tells me sometimes I’m too focused on one thing,” Kessell said. “I said, ‘I do.’ It’s almost kind of a relief sometimes when you’re going flying.”

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SEAL parachute team added to air show

DAYTON — Air Show officials announced today the addition of the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs to the 2020 Vectren Dayton Air Show Presented by Kroger. The elite Navy parachute team will join the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The 46th annual show, a Dayton summer tradition, will be held on June 27th and 28th at the Dayton International Airport.

Last appearing at Dayton in 2016, the Leap Frogs are the parachute demonstration team of the U.S. Navy. It consists of active-duty personnel drawn from Naval Special Warfare (NSW), including Navy SEALS and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC). The Leap Frogs, known for their aggressive style of jumping, will thrill spectators with their precision aerial maneuvers with free fall speeds up to 180 miles per hour. After performances, the Leap Frogs will go into the crowd and sign autographs and answer questions about what it’s like to be a Navy SEAL or SWCC. The 15-member team will travel to Dayton from their Naval Base in San Diego, California.

“The addition of the Leap Frogs is one more example of the incredible show we have in 2020,” stated Scott Buchanan, Chairman of the USATS Board of Trustees. “Dayton is proud to host an impressive lineup of naval assets. Truly an event that the entire family will enjoy.” Buchanan added

The Navy Leap Frogs joins an all-star 2020 lineup headlined by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II. Also appearing will be Tora! Tora! Tora!, an eight-plane emotional reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor complete with pyrotechnics, the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, Redline Airshows and Kevin Coleman aerobatics.

Air show officials indicate additional attractions to the 2020 show will be announced in the months ahead.

2020 tickets are on sale now at the show’s website, www.daytonairshow.com. Customers can enjoy print-at- home or print-to-mobile options on all website purchases.

Customers can also purchase the popular Pavilion and Blue Sky Chalet tickets online. Private chalets can be purchased by emailing info@daytonairshow.com or calling 937-898-5901 x132. Private chalets are popular for annual company picnics and outings.

Beginning May 18th, 2020, customers can conveniently purchase discount general admission tickets at area Kroger stores. This Kroger exclusive offers $3.00 off adult and children tickets at over 100 Kroger stores in the Dayton/Cincinnati region. Visit the show’s website for additional show information.

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Navy’s Blue Angels headed to Abilene for Navy Week

Navy Week program sets course for Abilene!

The Navy the nation needs is coming to Abilene, Texas, for Navy Week during the week of May 4-10, to show the Navy to the community.

Navy Weeks are the service’s signature outreach program and allow the Navy to build and strengthen ties to the community. Abilene Navy Week is scheduled to feature:

· Senior Navy leadership – Vice Adm. Luke McCollum, Commander, Navy Reserve Force

· Navy Band Southwest

· Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group One

· Navy History and Heritage

· USS Constitution

· U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard

In addition to events throughout Abilene, Navy units plan to participate in the Dyess Big Country Air and Space Expo, which will feature the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, Blue Angels and serves as the anchor event for the week. Navy units will also participate in the Western Heritage Classic at the end of the week.

Since 2005, the Navy Week program has served as the Navy’s primary outreach effort into areas of the country that do not have a significant Navy presence, with about 240 Navy Weeks held in more than 80 different U.S. markets.

“Navy Weeks are designed to help Americans understand why having a strong Navy is critical to the American way of life,” said Cmdr. Krin Burzynski, director of the Navy Office of Community Outreach (NAVCO), which plans and executes the Navy Week program. “Because the Navy is concentrated primarily in select locations on both coasts, we’re challenged to communicate our mission away from fleet concentration areas. That’s where the Navy Week program comes in.”

Navy Weeks focus a variety of outreach assets, equipment and personnel on a single city for a weeklong series of engagements with key influencers and organizations representing all sectors of the market.

“During a Navy Week, we’ll hold 75 to 100 outreach events with corporate, civic, government, education, veterans, community service, diversity organizations and media in the area,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Anderson, NAVCO Navy Week program manager. “This year is very exciting for us, as we’ll not only be returning to sites such as Salt Lake City, but will also be engaging new markets like Abilene.”

Unlike Fleet Weeks, where several ships and thousands of Sailors converge on a coastal market such as New York or Los Angeles, Navy Weeks are far smaller in scope, employing approximately 70 Sailors from about 10 units to focus on landlocked areas of the U.S. with little to no Navy presence.

For more information on Navy Weeks and the 2020 schedule, visit http://outreach.navy.mil/Navy-Weeks-2020.

For more information on Abilene Navy Week, contact Ian Lundy at (901) 874-5803.

Thank you for supporting the men and women who serve in the Navy our nation needs.

The Dyess AirFest on May 9th and 10th.

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High-flying fare planned for air show

Teams from Navy, Army are among attractions

LANCASTER — Demonstrations of the Navy’s newest fighter, an Army parachute team, an aerobatic pilot fresh off of the Top Gun sequel and World War II pilot training — all these attractions have been added to the bill for the Los Angeles County Air Show “Aerospace Valley USA” arriving next month.

The air show, on March 21 and 22 at Gen. William J. Fox Field in Lancaster, will also feature as the headlining act the Navy’s precision flight team, the Blue Angels.

“This year’s goal is to knock the socks off the aviation enthusiast, and that’s not an easy task here in Aerospace Valley,” Los Angeles County Air Show Board President Mike VanKirk said. “For those of us who live here, we’re blessed to see some of the world’s top aircraft fly on a regular basis, but I’m thrilled to say the 2020 show is shaping up to be one of the most exciting air shows in the country.”

In addition to the Blue Angels, the Navy’s F-35C demonstration team from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, will showcase the service’s latest fighter. The F-35C is the Navy variant of the joint strike fighter, which also has versions for the Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as several international partners.

This is the first year the Navy has fielded a F-35C team for air shows.

Another first for this year’s show is an appearance by the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, made up of demonstration and competition parachutists drawn from all parts of the U.S. Army.

Aerobatic pilot Chuck Coleman returns to the Los Angeles County Air Show this year. The local pilot has performed throughout the country and has been involved most recently in making the upcoming “Top Gun” sequel.

Coleman served as the aerobatic flight instructor for the “Tom Cruise School of Flying” in his Extra 300L airplane and performed in more than 140 flights with the actors.

These performers are in addition to the previously announced Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” warbirds, Alabama Boys, Rob Harrison The Tumbling Bear and Vicky Benzing flying her Stearman biplane.

On the ground, a new display will tell the story of War Eagle Field, the World War II flying school for Royal Air Force pilots in Lancaster. The display, a joint effort with the Antelope Valley Rural Museum, will detail the Polaris Flight Academy and its cadre of British and Canadian fliers.

The popular Heroes and Legends history panels will feature discussions on subjects as varied as the U-2 spy plane, women in aviation and War Eagle Field.

The interactive STEM Expo continues to expand, offering hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering and math.

“For the first time in the Air Show’s history, we’re offering public premium seating, so folks will be able to get a fence line view, seating and other amenities,” VanKirk said. “It’s not just the ‘In the Sky’ show, but our ‘On the Ground’ static displays, Heroes and Legends History panel, interactive STEM, and great food that make a perfect recipe for an amazing event. Our robust line-up including the 2020 is an exciting year for all aerospace enthusiasts.”

Tickets are on sale at www.lacountyairshow.com, the show website.

 

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