More than 5,000 watch Blue Angels dazzle at first Pensacola practice of 2018

Buy Photo Thousands of fans got their first look at the 2018 Blue Angels on Wednesday during the team’s first public practice session at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

“It was absolutely worth the wait,” said Scott Shaginaw.

The Hobart, Indiana, man and his 9-year-old son were among a large crowd of disappointed fans when Tuesday’s practice was called off because of weather.

“It was thrilling, the weather was great and I am glad we finally got to see them,” Shaginaw said after Wednesday’s show.

The elite fighter jet demonstration team delighted fans for about 40 minutes, performing high-speed passes, rolls and other precision maneuvers. It was the team’s first Pensacola practice after returning from winter training in El Centro, California, earlier this month.

“They looked really good and tight. Their formations were crisp and tight,” said retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gilliam, director of the National Naval Aviation museum and a former Navy pilot. “Cmdr. Doyle has really got them whipped into great shape.”

Gilliam, who did not have an exact crowd count, estimated more than 5,000 people were on hand for the team’s Pensacola debut, which was followed by an autograph session with the pilots inside the museum. A huge crowd gathers to meet the new Blue Angels team. Rowan Heaton, 9, of Birmingham, Alabama, waited in line with his family to meet the 2018 team’s new commanding officer, Cmdr. Eric Doyle.

Wednesday’s show was the first time Heaton had seen the Blue Angels.

“I went Blue Angels crazy,” he said with a huge smile. “It was awesome.”

Cmdr. Doyle greeted Heaton and signed his photograph of the six blue and gold F/A 18 jets flying in formation.

Five-year-old Isabella McKenzie of Gulf Breeze was first in the long line of fans waiting to meet Doyle. McKenzie, who handed Doyle a children’s book about the Blue Angels to sign, also had her photograph taken with him.

Helping to organize the large crowd gathered inside the museum’s atrium was longtime museum volunteer Phyllis Crooke. Christine Lindstrom, of Indianpolis, right, looks on as the TerHarr family from Michigan takes a family photo a the head of the line for the Blue Angels first practice at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. “It is always exciting to see the team for the first time,” said Crooke, who said she loves helping with the autograph sessions because she enjoys interacting with the youngest fans.

Kason Norton, 6, clutched several small Blue Angels toy planes as he handed Doyle a baseball hat to sign. The Andalusia, Alabama, boy grinned broadly as chatted with Doyle and fellow pilot Lt. Damon Kroes. (Photo: Melissa Nelson Gabriel/mnelsongab@pnj.com) The large crowd started gathering before 8:30 a.m. for the 11:30 a.m. practice, and a line traffic backed up outside the base’s west gate along Blue Angel Parkway before the planes took off.Wearing a Blue Angels shirt and visor and carrying a new camera, Christine Lindstrom of Indianapolis was among the first in line before 8:30 a.m.”I haven’t seen them in a couple of years and I’m […]

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