OCEAN CITY — In preparation for their first-ever official appearance in Ocean City next summer, members of the Navy’s Blue Angel jet demonstration team visited the resort Friday to meet with officials and get a lay of the land.
“We haven’t been here before and we’re always looking for new show events to go to,” said Lt. Commander Michael Cheng, Blue Angel 8 and events coordinator for the team. “We get about 300 applications every year … A remote show like this we get a chance to showcase the Navy Marine Corps to a larger group of people than we usually get to when you’re talking about an airfield or something like that.”
Of the roughly 300 annual invitations to have the Angels perform at an air show, Cheng confirmed that the team is only able to make it to approximately 10 percent of the locations, meaning an average of about 30 shows per year. The number of beach shows is even more exclusive, with Cheng estimating that only about 20 percent of the Angels’ shows every year are over beaches.
This is partially because, while the shore may offer more access than an airfield and unique visuals, fuel is a bigger factor when the planes are performing over the water and need to conserve enough fuel to make it back to base.
With the excellent access offered by the beach and Maryland’s own history with the Navy, expectations are high to see this summer’s air show bring in record crowds.
“The Navy is deeply rooted in Maryland with the Naval Academy in Annapolis and their testing center at Patuxent River,” said Bryan Lilley of B. Lilley Productions, which produces the show. “The Blue Angels inaugural performance at the OC Air Show is expected to draw record crowds and bring a tremendous economic boost to Ocean City.”
The Blue Angels are one of the nation’s most storied and popular jet demonstration teams, with a history stretching back to immediately after World War II. The Angles have been touring since 1946, with the modern iteration of the team flying six F/A-18 Hornets. They have recorded speeds during their demonstration as fast as 700 mph.
Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, Blue Angel 7 and advance pilot and narrator for the team, pointed out that all six of the regular pilots that take part in the demonstration prepare rigorously for every show, since if they miss one there is no back-up to fly for them.
“There are no spares or alternates,” he said. “Blue Angels 1 through 6 that fly, that’s it. There’s no way they can fill in for them.”
What truly sets the Angels apart as a team, according to Cheng, is the fact that their routines aren’t just creative showmanship. Every maneuverer they perform is taught to all Navy jet pilots.
“They aren’t anything different than what is taught to the fleet,” he said.
However, Cheng admitted that the Angels do use an artistic license when performing some of their trademark maneuvers, including precision fly-bys involving jets passing within 18 inches of each other.
“On an everyday basis, we obviously don’t fly 18 inches apart from each other,” he said. “There’s just no need.”
But while the Angels may add style to the maneuvers, Cheng said that the end goal is to act as ambassadors for the Navy at large and to represent all of the pilots, sailors, marines and other service members stationed at home or serving abroad. With every show, the hope is that members of the audience will walk away with a new appreciation for flight.
“The men and women on the Blue Angels represent the 550,000 sailors and marines out there on our frontlines all the time,” said Cheng. “That’s our primary mission, to represent them and to inspire and motivate new aviators in the future to maybe join the Navy Marine Corps as well as aviation in general.”
This summer’s Ocean City Air Show is slated for June 8-9 and will feature a four-hour line-up of military and civilian flight performers over the beach, centered around 16th Street. General seating on the beach is free with room at the Drop Zone starting at $19 and penthouse and VIP viewing starting at $89. For more information on the acts and viewing prices visit www.ocairshow.com