September 26, 2021

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Navy Blue Angels return to Fort Lauderdale Air Show this weekend

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Six fast-moving blue blurs, better known as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, will become even faster blue blurs when they headline this weekend’s 2021 Fort Lauderdale Air Show May 8-9.

The sextet of elite fighter jets last visited Fort Lauderdale in 2019, the Navy’s legacy Hornets flown in air shows since 1986 have been replaced by larger, sleeker twin-engine F/A-18 Super Hornets that pack 40% more power under the hood. And they kick up more raw velocity (nearly 1,200 mph), vapor trails, hairpin turns and death-defying inverted rolls than their predecessors. For festivalgoers standing on the sands of Fort Lauderdale beach, those upgrades can be summarized in one word: loud.

“It’s not that you’ll see a faster craft – we can’t by law exceed the speed of sound – but there’s more power in the engines,” Air Show president Bryan Lilley says. “The turns are quicker and more dynamic, the aircraft are bigger, and all that means more noise.”

Joining this weekend’s daredevilry in the sky will be 11 military-grade seaplanes, stunt aircraft, helicopters and paratroopers.

Introduced during last November’s Air Show, which was delayed six months by the pandemic, the Air Show’s free Air.Show livestream lets viewers watching from home ride in the cockpit with aviators and toggle between video feeds and audio commentary from the narrator’s broadcast stage.

In-person admission is also free for spectators along Fort Lauderdale beach north of Sunrise Boulevard. But if you’re angling for better seats, be prepared to splurge online, as no tickets will be sold in person this year. Drop Zone Beach passes, a prime viewing area on the shore between Sunrise and Northeast 14th Court – will cost $35-$39 online and includes access to portable restrooms and early 9 a.m. admission. Flight Line Club VIP ($179-$199) includes a personal beach tent, food and a drink, and a golf-cart valet.

Prefer aerial views? Arguably the best vantage point is the VIP Penthouse ($449, Saturday sold out) on the 10th floor rooftop balcony of the Pelican Grand (2000 N. Ocean Blvd.), which includes an air-conditioned bathroom, valet parking, open bar and bites. Also introduced last November, the Sand Boxes ($259 for Sunday, Saturday sold out) are private areas in designated boxes on the beach sand where families can sit socially distanced.

If VIP sounds steep, consider this alternative: Watch the Air Show from the patio for free at McSorley’s Beach Pub (837 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.), or pay $40 for rooftop access (children 15 and under are free).

The action will kick off each day at 11:30 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m.

Given to fly

There will be 12 performances, but keep an eye out for these mavericks of the skies.

U.S. Navy Blue Angels: Grounded in Pensacola during the off-season, the Blue Angels are known for precision flying their F/A-18 Super Hornets, landing atop each other, executing dynamic loops and flying in the six-jet Delta formation.

F-16 Viper Demo Team: This second-billed fighter-jet team, one of four military squadrons that headlined last November’s pandemic-delayed Air Show, will pull off a three-mile inverted climb among its stunts.

Red Bull Helicopter: Stuntman Aaron Fitzgerald pilots this modified BO-105C twin-engine helicopter that can execute barrel rolls, vertical climbs, nose dives, full loops and – perhaps most dangerous of all – upside-down flying.

Coast Guard SAR Demo: Returning from their 2019 appearance, this Coast Guard search-and-rescue crew will simulate a water rescue demonstration 300 feet offshore. Rescue swimmers will dive from a helicopter hovering over a person in distress, then hoist the rescued swimmer into the helicopter.

Ms. Geico vs. the Skytyper: Which is faster, a World War II-era SNJ-2 vintage aircraft or a speedboat? Answer: It depends on the surf and wind speed. The Geico Skytypers, always an Air Show crowd-pleaser for their white-smoke skywriting and aerobatic loops, will send one of their WWII aircrafts to face off against Miss Geico, a 47-foot catamaran.

C-17 Globemaster III Demo: At 174 feet long and with a wingspan of 170 feet, this cargo aircraft hogs plenty of airspace, but it’s capable of air-dropping 102 paratroopers and their equipment.

Danger zone

Of the many COVID-19 upgrades in place, the highlights include contactless ticket scanning, portable hand sanitizers and hand-washing stations. No tickets will be sold at the gate. And wearing a mask is recommended – but not exactly enforced – for spectators standing within six feet of others, and optional when separated at least six feet.

State Road A1A will be closed between Sunrise Boulevard and Northeast 19th Court from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 8-9, so find alternate routes if commuting. The Sunrise Boulevard Bridge will stay lowered for boat traffic 3-4:30 p.m. as spectators exit the beach each day.

Food and drink concessionaires will return, and will accept both cash and credit. Bring essentials such as masks and sanitizer, backpacks (there’s a security inspection upon entry), coolers (also checked), beach chairs, umbrellas and sunscreen. Cameras are also allowed. Don’t bring personal tents or awnings, barbecue grills or outside alcohol.

©2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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