Ready to soar: Blue Angels arrive in Dayton with new F/A-18s

Five of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron jet pilots arrived at Dayton International Airport Thursday to prepare for this weekend’s CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show.

Marine Corps Major Frank Zastoupil, the team’s No. 4 jet pilot, was happy to visit the city he quickly acknowledged as the “birthplace of aviation.”

The squadron’s No. 7 jet pilot, Lt. Griffin Stangel, was the first team member to arrive Wednesday.

Flying and practice were among the tasks on the to-do list Thursday, with pilots planning to get oriented with landmarks and checkpoints.

“We’re going to be flying Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all weekend, and we’re extremely excited,” said Zastoupil, a Texas native who has flown with the Blue Angels for three years.

The team is the air show’s headline act Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Zastoupil is the team’s slot pilot, often taking the bottom position in the squadron’s famous close-formation four-plane “diamond.”

He said the squadron’s formations can leave as few as 18 inches between jets. Asked if that’s closer than the Air Force Thunderbirds’ demonstrations, Zastoupil said yes, then added: “We don’t practice social distancing in the air.”

This is the team’s second year with their new F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, but this weekend will be their first time flying these jets for spectators in Dayton.

The new jets replaced the A/B/C/D Legacy Hornets, which the squadron flew for some 34 years. The new Super Hornets are said to be more powerful and impressive, especially at spectator-wowing lower altitudes.

“The new F-18s are great,” said Zastoupil, the only Marine on the team flying a jet. “It’s a fantastic aircraft for a demonstration. What you’re going to see here are planes that are 33% bigger than our legacy Hornets that we were able to fly here in the past. So it’s going to look a little bigger. It’s going to look a little bit more in your face.”

Justin Delacruz, a Navy first-class petty officer who handles logistics matters for the squadron, was also on hand Thursday.

Delacruz said he and his colleagues obtain for the team “literally anything they need.”

“We figure out the fastest way to get it,” he said. “It can be as small as a tent or even a piece of the aircraft itself.”

Air show gates open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Feature flights will be noon to 4:15 p.m., but all acts and times are subject to change without notice, depending on weather and other needs.

The lineup includes:

  • Flag drop and National Anthem
  • U.S. Army Golden Knights
  • Kevin Coleman
  • U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demo
  • Vampire Airshows
  • U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • Kent Pietsch
  • USMC Fat Albert
  • U.S. Navy Blue Angels


General admission tickets, priced at $20-$30, are available online, a Kroger near you or can be purchased at the gate. Tickets are to be used for one day. Children under the age of 5 have free admission.

All tickets sales are final. Refunds and rain checks are not available. There are a variety of ticket options to choose from. In particular, the Synchrony Family 4-Pack is available for $99 and includes four general admission tickets, four hot dogs, four Cokes, one general admission parking pass and one official souvenir program.

Visit for the family value pack or more ticket options. For more information call 800-514-3849.


You’re advised to arrive early to avoid heavy traffic. General admission for parking is $15 per car and $25 for RVs, buses and other large vehicles.

Take Exit 64 Northwoods Blvd from I-75. Follow signs to appropriate lots. Stay in right lane.

More information on parking can be found


Restricted items include:

  • Coolers
  • Loose Ice
  • Cans or glass
  • Alcohol
  • Pets
  • Weapons
  • Firearms
  • Tents or awnings
  • Cooking Equipment
  • Segways
  • Hoverboards
  • Skateboards
  • Drones

Food is not prohibited but it must be wrapped in clear wrapping and not in a cooler. Other items such as chairs, strollers, wagons, cameras, blankets, and handheld umbrellas are allowed. For more information on what to bring or what not bring, visit

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