El Centro, California – 2020 Training Session
The US Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team fly over 50 demonstrations a year across the country. At the end of the air show season, the team is already thinking about the following year’s air show season. At the beginning of January each year, The Blue Angels depart NAS Pensacola and head to their winter home, NAF El Centro in Southern California.
The Blue Angels rely on the Imperial Valley for its near perfect weather, and 2020 will mark the team’s 53rd year in El Centro for winter training. Once they arrive at NAF EL Centro, team will kick off an intense ten week training session with the pilots flying two practice missions per day, six days a week, in order to meet the 120 training missions required to perform their upcoming public air show demonstrations safely.
This year, The Blue Angels were joined by their counterparts, The United States Air Force Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds joined the Blue Angels at NAF EL Centro for a few days at the end of February for joint training and information exchange. Pilots from each team were able to fly with their counterparts during each other’s practice sessions. Thunderbird “Boss” Lieutenant Colonel John Caldwell jumped into the back seat with Blue Angel #4, Slot Pilot, Lieutenant Commander Jim Cox to see the firsthand how the Blue Angels do things.
The Blue Angels are tentatively scheduled to start flying the the F/A-18E Super Hornet in 2021, the team’s 75th anniversary season. The move to the Super Hornet will mark the first time the elite Navy and Marine fighter jet demonstration team has changed aircraft since it moved from the A-4F Skyhawk II to the F/A-18 Hornet back in 1986.
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 United States 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.
Editor’s note: Due to the COVID-19 virus, most air shows in North America, and indeed the world, have been cancelled through most of June, 2020. This report was made before the rash of cancellations began some weeks ago. Stay safe everyone!