Navy Blue Angels crew members arrive in Dayton for pre-show visit

Early local appears for the new F/A-18 Super Hornet jet

Next summer’s Dayton Air Show may be seven months away, but show organizers and top performers are getting ready now. Among them are two U.S. Navy Blue Angels crew members who landed in Dayton on Monday for preparatory work.

The landing at Dayton International Airport offered the first local appearance of the Blue Angels’ new jet, the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. The squadron conducted its final flight in their previous F/A-18 Hornet fighter in November 2020.

Next year will also be the team’s second season with the C-130J Super Hercules, the squadron’s new “Fat Albert” transport.

The new jets have replaced the Navy’s F/A-18 A/B/C/D Legacy Hornets, which the squadron had flown since 1986, when it transitioned from the A-4F Skyhawk II.

Training with the new jets is happening now, twice a day, five days a week, said Blue Angels events coordinator Lt. Kaitlin Forster. The team conducts winter training at a Naval air facility at El Centro, Calif.

“We are here for preparation for the Dayton Air Show,” said Forster, who is Blue Angels No. 8. “Really, I’m here to brief with our planning committee and look around the area — a big thing is being a part of the community when we’re here, so we’re just getting the lay of the land, seeing the airport and its facilities.”

The famed flight demonstration squadron was scheduled to fly at the CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show Presented by Kroger in the summer of 2020 before COVID-19 forced organizers to cancel that year.

The air show took flight in July 2021, however, with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds headlining the event. Next year’s show is set for July 30 and 31 at Dayton International.

The Dayton Air Show is one of the select shows nationally that can reliably draw both the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels, noted Scott Buchanan, chairman of the board for the U.S. Air and Trade Show. The teams alternate, with the Air Force team performing one year, then the Navy the next.

“We’re very fortunate that every other year we have one of the jet teams,” Buchanan said.

Prep for next year’s show starts literally as soon as the current show ends, Buchanan said.

“We’ll fine-tune some of the acts for the show to keep that four-hour, four-and-a-half-hour (flying) window open for the air show,” he said. “A lot of the logistics and working with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), behind-the-scenes work is what happens right now.”

Jacquelyn Powell, a show board member as well as president and chief executive of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau, has told the Dayton Daily News that the economic impact attached to the annual show goes beyond the $2.32 million in direct spending.

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