The two seat F-18 flew over La Crosse at about 11 a.m. with Blue Angel pilots #7 Lieutenant Ryan Chamberlain and #8 Lieutenant Commander Michael Cheng for the winter visit.
The Blue Angels met with Deke Slayton Airfest organizers and local law enforcement on Wednesday to work on the logistics of the shows on May 31 and June 1.
“We’re very fortunate in La Crosse,” said Ron Schmal, President of the Deke Slayton Airfest. “We have probably one of the best layouts for a show because of the facilities we have with the airport and where we set the show site up.”
The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron will perform 65 shows at 34 locations in the U.S. in 2014. The Blue Angels will also perform in Milwaukee on June 21-22.
The Blue Angels were suspended on April 1, 2013, due to the sequestration, or federal spending cuts. Blue Angels pilot Chamberlain said the team is excited for their shows this year.
“We’re hoping after some time off in 2013 that people are hungry, excited for air shows again,” Chamberlain said. “We want them to come out. We want them to see us, see the air show, and reconnect with the United State Navy, United States marine Corps, really military in general.”
Chamberlain joined the Blue Angels in September 2012 and served as the Narrator and VIP pilot in 2013. He’s accumulated more than 1,765 flight hours and 343 carrier arrested landings.
Chamberlain and Cheng left Milwaukee a little later than they had hoped Wednesday morning, but Chamberlain said they made it to La Crosse in about 15 minutes.
“Today, they (pilots) didn’t look for too much for what you consider an ‘aerial survey,’ Chamberlain said. “When pilots fly for what they call their ‘circle maneuver’ on Thursday, they do two hours of flights basically low level over the air field and that’s where they get their check points and survey the area.”
On January 23, the Blue Angels will spend eight weeks in central California for training where pilots will practice their show.
“We’ll practice (the routine) 10-15 times per week while out in California,” Chamberlain said. “We'll log 120 training flights before the first demonstration for the public.”
Schmal said Airfest organizers are excited to have the Blue Angels back in La Crosse, along with the other pilots and aircrafts that will be part of the event.
“It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of these aircraft that are out there, especially WWII larger airplanes that do offer rides," Schmal said. "They’re being less and less available.”