The Blue Angels’ airshow season was dealt a final blow today when Naval Air Station Pensacola pulled the plug on the Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow, scheduled for October 16-17.
The show was the final event remaining on their 2020 schedule. All other planned performances have been canceled throughout the year in the face of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
Pensacola is traditionally the final performance of the year for the team; a celebration of a completed season in front of a hometown crowd. This year it was also going to be a final send-off of the team’s F-18 “Legacy” Hornets, which the Blues have flown for 34 years. The team will be leaving the old jets to history and transitioning to the larger F-18 Super Hornet over their winter training period. The first Blue Angel Super Hornet was just recently delivered to the team.
This cancellation means that the team is likely to complete 2020 without a single public performance, and that the last Legacy Hornet performance has already been flown. This may very well be the first year since the team’s inception without any public performances.
The first Super Hornet performance is currently scheduled for the NAS Jacksonville airshow on April 10-11, 2021. It is not unthinkable that it too may fall victim to the pandemic.
A small number of airshows are still planning to go ahead, so it is possible that the Blue Angels will add one or more to the schedule yet this year. However, this seems unlikely given the logistics required to support the team. Preparations usually start over a year in advance even in normal times, and the details of inter-state quarantine periods and local restrictions make any planning even more difficult than usual.
Hosting the team also requires substantial financial support from the event, from fuel to rental cars to hotels and other specific requirements spelled out in a 46-page support manual. While it’s possible that the team might relax some of their requirements in order to accommodate the situation, it is unlikely that any event – particularly faced with restricted attendance and limited sponsorship – would be able to afford to add the team at such a late juncture.
Despite the lack of an airshow season, the Blue Angels have spent time in the public eye thanks to a series of Operation America Strong flyovers to honor front line workers across the country. They also performed flyovers of Mount Rushmore and Washington DC for “Salute to America” Independence Day programs.
The Blue Angels were joined by their US Air Force Thunderbird counterparts in some of those flyovers. The Thunderbirds have also not flown a public performance yet in 2020. They were scheduled to perform at a drive-in airshow at FE Warren AFB in Wyoming last month but canceled at the last minute after a member of the team tested positive for COVID-19. They do have several other performances planned, starting this coming weekend in Ocean City, Maryland.
Like many fans, we are saddened that we likely won’t get to see the Blue Angels in Legacy Hornets one last time. However, it is certainly understandable that the military is not eager to welcome tens of thousands of potentially infected people onto the base. Chalk it up as just one more disappointment in a terrible year.