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Blue Angels Alight In Keys For Free Air Show

Mark Hedden
Six Blue Angels FA-18 Hornets flew over Key West before landing at the Navy airfield on Boca Chica Key Thursday. The airfield will be the site of a free air show on Saturday and Sunday.

  When six yellow-and-blue FA-18 Hornets flew over Duval Street in formation Thursday morning, islanders knew what it meant.

The Blue Angels had arrived.

The U.S. Navy's flight demonstration squadron flew from its home base in Pensacola to Naval Air Station Key West to serve as the star attraction at this weekend's Southernmost Air Spectacular. The show, which will be held  Saturday and Sunday, features an array of military and civilian aircraft performing aerobatic maneuvers and stunts.

Credit Mark Hedden / For WLRN
Lt. Ryan Chamberlain is the lead solo and operations pilot for the Blue Angels.

The show is free. Gates will open at Naval Air Station Key West at 9 a.m. The show is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. with the Blue Angels scheduled for 2:30 p.m. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office has warned travelers to expect delays on U.S. 1.

The last time the Blue Angels performed at NAS Key West about 36,000 people attended  over two days, said Trice Denny, public information officer for the base.

The squadron has been seen over the Keys in 2004, 2010 and 2013.

Lt. Ryan Chamberlain was one of the pilots who flew in Thursday morning. He flies the No. 5 plane and is the lead solo and operations officer.

"You'll see the six jets, one through four, the diamond pilots and you'll see five and six that do all the high speed crossing maneuvers that make it look like we're going to hit each other," Chamberlain said. "I'm the lead of the two solo pilots."

The Blue Angels travel to 35 different sites each year performing and providing an opportunity for the public to connect with the Navy, Chamberlain said.

"Fortunately, Key West does have a Navy presence, but when you go to places like Vidalia, Ga., for example, they don't know what it's like to interact with the Navy and Marine Corps,  and people want to connect with their military," he said.

Chamberlain was part of the Blue Angels the last time the squadron came to town three years ago. And that wasn't his first time flying over the Keys.

"Before I was flying blue-and-yellow jets, I was flying gray jets. I've been here multiple times," he said. "A lot of us, as naval aviators, have spent at least a few weeks if not a couple months here in Key West doing training in the amazing ranges. We've all spent a lot of time downtown, hanging out. The people are so nice; they welcome the Navy so well here."

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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