Blue Angels dazzle, veteran aviators gather at 60th anniversary air show in Florida

Friday, November 10th 2006, 6:37 pm
By: News On 6

PENSACOLA NAVAL AIR STATION, Fla. (AP) Six blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets streaked through the sky Friday as decades of Blue Angel aviators reunited to celebrate the elite Navy aerial demonstration team's 60th anniversary.

More than 65,000 fans gathered for the first day of the team's two-day homecoming show marking the end of the Blue Angels' anniversary season.

The crowd set a base record for a Friday air show, and attendance was expected to double Saturday for the Blue Angels' final performance of the season, base spokesman Patrick Nichols said.

Friday's crowd-pleasing performance included Blue Angels signature maneuvers like the diamond-barrel loop and the Cuban eight.

``I think it's great for the public, the way they represent us,'' said Marine Pvt. Joel Pellegrino, a student at Pensacola Navy Air Station who watched the show with friends.

Two year-old Aidan Hammac laughed and pointed throughout the show. In his mother's arms, he pointed at the sky and screamed ``It's gone! It's gone!'' as the plane flew low over the backs of the crowd and disappeared into the clouds.

A total of 223 aviators have served on the team since it was formed by Adm. Chester Nimitz in 1946.

Retired Capt. Greg Wooldridge commanded the squadron during the Blues' 50th anniversary homecoming show and said performing in front of the former elite Naval aviators brought out the best in the team.

``You get fired up. It gives you an edge,'' he said.

And Wooldridge said there is nothing like reuniting with the exclusive group of men who have flown for the team through the decades.

``It's just a great time. Everyone starts jogging everyone's memories,'' he said.