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This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

“We'll get higher and higher Straight up we'll climb We'll get higher and higher Leave it all behind. “ – Van Halen

April 1, 2019



“We'll get higher and higher
Straight up we'll climb
We'll get higher and higher
Leave it all behind. “ – Van Halen

One of the coolest things about Key West being home to a Naval base is that every few years, the Naval Air Station at Boca Chica hosts one of the coolest airshows around, the Southernmost Air Show Spectacular starring the Blue Angels. The airshow is performed twice, with identical shows both on Saturday and Sunday and crowds pack the base to watch.



We have attended the show the past few times that it has come to town, but this year I was undecided about attending since Kathy was out in Colorado when out of the blue our friends Nadene and Trevor invited me to join them and their daughter Meredith at their VIP table for the Saturday show. What a wonderful stroke of good fortune, not only would I get to attend the show, I got to go with some of our favorite people ever.


The airshow is a full day of activities as the air station is transformed in to something of a fairgrounds that opens at 9 AM and features all sorts of vendors, rides, food vendors and static displays of some of the coolest aircraft that are found in the Navy arsenal for visitors to check out. From cavernous cargo planes, to Blackhawk helicopters, to fighter jets and more, there are all sorts of military planes and vehicles that the public can explore.

In addition there is a car show on hand for those interested in exotic cars and a full day of both military and civilian performers displaying their flying prowess or skydiving skills, there was even a jet powered semi tractor trailer that could reach speeds up to 376 mph and made a crazy couple of demonstration runs down the runway. 

Perhaps the best part of the entire day was watching Nadene and her unbridled excitement at the entire proceeding. I never would have guessed that she would find the jets so appealing. I mean they are cool as hell, but she was like a kid in a candy store. 


Among the military performers were the US SOCOM Para Commandos Parachute Team, the group opened the show with a jump from 12, 500 feet, with one of the jumpers streaming a huge US flag behind them. They reached free fall speeds of 120 mph before opening their chutes and making pinpoint landings in spite of the brisk wind that was blowing on Saturday. It was an amazingly impressive way to open the show.


Other military performers included the A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team which demonstrated the unique combat capabilities of the A-10 “Warthog” plane. Also on hand was the VFA-106 “Gladiators” U.S. Navy Super Hornet Tactical Demonstration Team, The Gladiators showcased the F/A-18F Super Hornet Tactical Demonstration (TACDEMO). The demonstration is designed to highlight the mobility, versatility, and power of the F/A-18F. From the high “G” minimum radius turn to the slow speed “high-alpha” pass, the demo flight puts the Super Hornet (nicknamed the “Rhino”) through its paces. 


The locally based Navy flyers, The Sun Downers. Sun Downers is a US Navy Reserve adversary squadron based here at Naval Air Station Key West. Currently, it operates 18 Northrop F-5N/F Tiger-IIs, of which 17 are single-seater F-5Ns and the remainder being a twin-seater F-5F, which was dubbed “FrankenTiger” and is one of only three in service with the Navy, being a product of grafting the older front half fuselage of the F-5Fs into the back half fuselage of the newer low-hours F-5Es acquired from the Swiss Air Force. The Sun Downers operate as part of the U.S. Navy Reserve’s fleet adversary program, providing dissimilar air combat training to fleet strike fighter and Marine fighter attack squadrons, as well as U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fighter squadrons.

In addition to the military performers, the airshow included a number of civilian performers. Patty Wagstaff is a  six-time member of the US Aerobatic Team, Patty has won the gold, silver and bronze medals in Olympic-level international aerobatic competition and is the first woman to win the title of US National Aerobatic champion and one of the few people to win it three times. Greg and Ashley Shelton performed an amazing display of wing walking as Greg piloted a 450 Super Steerman bi-plane as his wife Ashley performed the wing walking. It was pretty amazing stuff.

Also on the bill were the Misty Blues, an all-female skydiving team and Rob Holland who performed a number of aerobatic high flying tricks including a few that no one else has ever performed. Rob is a four time consecutive world freestyle flying champion and even included a race against what was perhaps the most unique and popular of the acts outside of the Blue Angels, Shockwave. 

Shockwave is a custom built race truck equipped with 3 huge J34-48 Pratt & Whitney Jet Engines originally out of the USA Navy T2 Buckeye. The combined horsepower is 36,000! These 3 Jet Engines make a total of 21,000 lbs. of thrust which easily propels this truck to speeds over 350 mph while racing planes at air shows all over North America! Shockwave is not only the most powerful truck in the world, it also holds the record speed for Semi Trucks at 376 mph!

The highlight of the show is the appearance of the Blue Angels, the official US Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. Initially formed in 1946, the Blue Angels are the second oldest formal flying aerobatic team (under the same name) in the world, after the French Patrouille de France formed in 1931. The Blue Angels' McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets (numbered 1–6) are currently flown by five Navy demonstration pilots and one Marine Corps demonstration pilot.


During their aerobatic demonstration, the Blues fly six F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, split into the Diamond Formation (Blue Angels 1 through 4) and the Lead and Opposing Solos (Blue Angels 5 and 6). Most of the show alternates between maneuvers performed by the Diamond Formation and those performed by the Solos. The Diamond, in tight formation and usually at lower speeds (400 mph), performs maneuvers such as formation loops, rolls, and transitions from one formation to another. 


The Solos showcase the high performance capabilities of their individual aircraft through the execution of high-speed passes, slow passes, fast rolls, slow rolls, and very tight turns. The highest speed flown during an air show is 700 mph (just under Mach 1) and the lowest speed is 120 mph. Some of the maneuvers include both solo aircraft performing at once, such as opposing passes (toward each other in what appears to be a collision course) and mirror formations (back-to-back. belly-to-belly, or wingtip-to-wingtip, with one jet flying inverted). The Solos join the Diamond Formation near the end of the show for a number of maneuvers in the Delta Formation.