The Santa Rosa Island Authority will once again host the annual Pensacola Beach Air Show, with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels headlining, on Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14.
At 2 p.m. Thursday, the Blue Angels will hold a full practice show over Pensacola Beach (weather permitting). Friday is the air show dress rehearsal, with civilian acts beginning just before noon and the Blue Angels overhead at 2 p.m., weather pending. The official show Saturday follows Friday’s dress rehearsal exactly.
11:30 a.m.: Veteran’s Flight leads off the civilian acts portion of the air show with about a dozen vintage Stearman bi-plane pilots from all over the Southeast flying World War II veterans over the beach to pay tribute to them.
11:45 a.m.: The U.S. Coast Guard will enact an out-the-door, search-and-rescue demonstration from a helicopter of someone in distress.
Noon: Pilots Ken Rieder and Jon Thocker with Redline Aerobatic Team will take to the skies, in their signature red and black stunt planes, to perform.
12:15 p.m.: Pilot Kevin Coleman will push the limits in his bright yellow Extra 300 SHP stunt plane.
12:35 p.m.: Pilot Gary Ward will zip overhead in his green and purple MX2 aircraft, showcasing an aerobatic act packed with breathtaking maneuvers that range from zero-speed hovers to dives in excess of 250 mph.
12:50 p.m.: Stunt pilot Skip Stewart will close the civilian part of the show in his red, white and black-checkered bi-plane, Prometheus.
Following the civilian acts will be a short 30-minute window for spectators to cool off and take a dip in the Gulf before lifeguards clear the waters again in anticipation of the start of the Blue Angels show.
2 p.m.: Six signature blue and gold F-18 Super Hornets will make their way over Pensacola Beach. For 45 minutes, they will perform aeronautic maneuvers like the Diamond Dirty Loop, the Double Farvel, the Vertical Pitch, the Fleur-de-Lis, the Opposing Knife-Edge pass and the crowd-favorite Sneak Pass.
For the safety of all spectators and air show participants, no unmanned aircraft or drones can be flown during the air show. In addition, glass is always prohibited on the beach, and leashed dogs are allowed only at the two designated dog beaches on either side of the island.
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After photographing the U.S. Navy Blue Angels for three decades, longtime Pensacola News Journal photographer and Pensacola native Tony Giberson started shooting the Blue Angels in the mid-1980s. So this is not his first Blue Angels rodeo.
1. Go for a shot that no other photographer will have. Get creative with long shots and different angles, utilizing the beach AND the planes together.
2. Scout out and snap from various locations beforehand. Some of his favorite beach shots have come from the balconies of tall condominium buildings. "You are looking down on (the jets), it is a whole new look," he said.
3. Point and snap the jets as they are finishing high-speed turns or banking to capture their vapor trails. Shooting at a high shutter speed, 1/1000 or faster, will help to freeze the action of the jets, which fly at speeds of up to 700 miles an hour in the demonstrations.
4. Be patient. Follow the action with their lens before taking a shot. Also, it is best for photographers to meter the light for the surrounding beach and not the sky.
5. Have a shot in mind. One cool idea is to catch the Blue Angels flying over Palafox with the city's five flags in the background and an eyeglass-shaped sign in front.