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Birds of a Different Feather

Photo by Inside Track Almanac

This weekend the Treasure Coast will once again hear a familiar roar above as a different kind of bird appears in the skies over Vero Beach! While there much action on the ground and in the air, ultimately, it’s the super elite Blue Angels that have been attracting air show spectators by the millions since 1946. Here’s some trivia to keep handy so you can impress your friends and family before, during and after the spectacular displays.

Origins The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, ordered the establishment of the team in 1946. The Blue Angels are the oldest aviation demonstration squadron in the U.S. and aside from promoting the pride and professionalism of United States Navy and Marine Corps, the primary goal for performances is recruitment. The team named themselves after the famous Blue Angel nightclub after one pilot saw it in the New Yorker magazine.

The Aircraft Since 1946 the Angels have flown eight types of aircraft. The first five were Grumman built and the 6th and 7th were McDonnell Douglass. Today the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet is the plane and has been since 1986. In 1970 the Blue Angels integrated a Marine Corps C-130 Hercules aircraft built by Lockheed Martin, affectionately known as "Fat Albert," as the opener of the flight demonstration.

The acquisition price of an F/A-18 A Hornet is abut $21 million before bling and customization which can up the price tag to over $50 million. The US Navy budgets about $40 million a year to maintain the squadron. The Blue Angels currently have 11 jets. The fastest show speed is about 700 mph, just under Mach 1 but the aircraft is capable of 1,400 mph, almost twice the speed of sound. During demonstrations, the planes get as close as 18 inches apart during the Diamond 360 maneuver.

The Team A total of 16 Naval officers voluntarily serve with the Blue Angels, and six perform during air shows. Each year, the team selects three tactical jet pilots, two support officers and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot to perform. The pilots' average age is 33 years old, and officers on the team serve two to three years, while enlisted personnel serves three to four years. Each member, both officers and enlisted, return to the fleet after completing a tour with the Blue Angels. Navy and Marine aviators earn an average of $70,550 per year and pilots receive no special compensation for touring with the Blue Angels.

Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins became the first female Blue Angels pilot in 2014. The number of females varies each year. The 2017 team has 14 enlisted women.

If you're planning to watch the show this weekend starting Saturday, April 21st and continuing through Sunday April 22, be sure to check out the official Vero Beach Air Show Website to see all of the performers and schedules.

All photos by Inside Track Almanac

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