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Blues Fly Into 70th Anniversary Season

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

Two performances into the 2016 season, the Blue Angels returned to Pensacola Monday, to celebrate the squadron’s 70th birthday.

The crowd gathered in the atrium at the Naval Aviation Museum welcoming the Blues, their wives, and their children back to Pensacola. There followed proclamations from the City of Pensacola, Escambia County, and base commander Capt. Keith Hoskins – himself a former Blue Angel.

“Whereas, the Blue Angel team represents a sampling of the hard-working sailors and Marines, officers and enlisted, throughout the fleet,” said Hoskins. “Most of which started their aviation training right here at Naval Air Station Pensacola.”

The team is back from its off-season home in El Centro, California, after flying in air shows there and last weekend in Lancaster, California. In all, the Blues are scheduled for 69 performances at 36 venues this year.

“2016 team, this is your new hometown. You’re not going to find a better hometown in the United States, that will take better care of you,” said retired Rear Adm. David Anderson, who was a Blue Angel from 1985-87. He gave a brief overview of the team’s history, whose genesis lay in Adm. Chester Nimitz’ support of naval air power after World War II.

“In 1946, he found this young commander by the name of Butch Voris,” said Anderson. “He commissioned him to get some of his fellow war veterans and put together a demonstration team to go around the country and demonstrate naval aviation.”

The Blue Angels moved to NAS Pensacola in 1954, and its mission statement has evolved over the past seven decades from just putting on flight demonstrations. Anderson says that mission now is to inspire….

“All of us,” he said. “It’s to prove what hard work, dedication and teamwork can really accomplish.”

Commander Ryan Bernacchi is the new Boss in the Number-1 aircraft. Prior to the ceremony, the Blue Angels made their entrance flying over downtown Pensacola, then taking the scenic route.

“We flew down Palafox Street, we came over the city, over the water,” said Bernacchi. “Made a left turn over Gulf Breeze, brought it back around, out by Navarre. Then we flew all the way out to Perdido, then came back around and came into our home field, Sherman Field at NAS Pensacola.”

Bernacchi acknowledged the support given the team by the public. While the pilots fly the FA-18 Hornets and the ground crew maintains them, the team’s families also are essential to success.

“It’s also very difficult because we spend so much time away from home; that because of you that we’re able to do it,” Bernacchi said. The support that you show, that the base shows, the Navy and Marine Corps show for us and our families, allows us to go out and do that job that means so much to us and we enjoy and love so much as well.”

Monday's events launched a season-long celebration of the Blue’s 70 years in the skies. Included are the annual show over Pensacola Beach on July 16, and the homecoming over NAS Pensacola on November 11-12.  

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