Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show week: What you need to know

·7 min read

It’s Blue Angels week as Pensacolians begin to wind down Independence Day celebrations with one of the year’s biggest shows from the Navy flight demonstration team.

After debuting the new F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets last year, it’s back to business for the Blues this year with a full scheduled show in 2022.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Practice schedule: Blue Angels 2022 practice schedule in Pensacola announced

Super Hornet info

In 2021, the Blue Angels debuted their new Super Hornets jets. The new 11-jet fleet replaced the U.S. Navy's F/A-18 A/B/C/D Legacy Hornets, which had a 34-year stint with the Blue Angels.

The Super Hornets are a more powerful jet, particularly at lower altitudes. The new jets are also 25% larger than the previous Hornet, have greater fuel capacity, can fly 40% farther than the Hornet and remain on station 80% longer.

Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show 2022 schedule

Wednesday

”Breakfast with the Blues” kicks off the air show week around 7:30 a.m. on July 6 when the Blue Angels arrive and circle overhead to mark the show’s coordinates and center points along Pensacola Beach.

Thursday

The Blue Angels hold a practice show over Pensacola Beach at 2 p.m. on July 7. If you’re looking to catch the Blue Angels flying against the stunning Pensacola Beach backdrop without the crowds, then the Thursday show is the one for you. The civilian acts do not perform at the Thursday practice show.

Friday and Saturday

The Pensacola Beach Air Show dress rehearsal, including a handful of flight demonstrations and civilian aerobatic performances, begins at approximately 11 a.m. on July 8, with the Blue Angels flying at 2 p.m.

The official Pensacola Beach Air Show on July 9 exactly follows Friday’s dress rehearsal schedule:

  • Julian MacQueen will lead off the civilian acts portion of the air show in his big, flying seaplane, a vintage 1943 Grumman Widgeon starting around 11 a.m.

  • The Veteran’s Flight team will be over the Gulf. Organized by Pensacola attorney and pilot Roy Kinsey, about a dozen vintage Stearman biplane pilots from all over the Southeast will be flying World War II and Korean War veterans over Pensacola Beach on Friday and Saturday as a way to pay tribute to them, and give the tens of thousands of beach spectators a glimpse at aviation history.

  • A U.S. Coast Guard Air Sea Rescue demonstration will take place near the beach pier from an MH-65D Dolphin medevac helicopter. The SAR aircrew consists of two pilots, one flight mechanic and a rescue swimmer. Depending on the nature of distress, the rescue swimmer deploys via freefall or hoist to provide assistance.

  • Solo pilot Kevin Coleman push the limits of his bright yellow Extra 300 SHP stunt plane over Pensacola Beach.

  • Pilots Ken Rieder and Adam Baker with Redline Aerobatic Team take to the skies in their signature red and black stunt planes to perform opposing stunts and inverted maneuvers and formations.

  • Stunt pilot Skip Stewart will then wow the crowds with high-skill passes and jaw-dropping maneuvers in his famous red, white and black-checkered biplane, Prometheus.

  • New to the show this year, Patty Wagstaff, the first woman to win the title of U.S. National Aerobatic champion and a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team, will take the sky over Pensacola Beach. Her breathtaking performances give airshow spectators a front-row seat view of the precision and complexity of hard-core aerobatics.

  • Closing out the civilian acts, solo 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.

  • There will be about a 35-minute window for spectators to cool off and take a dip in the Gulf before lifeguards clear the water again in anticipation of the start of the Blue Angels show.

The Blue Angels perform

At 2 p.m., look to the Gulf horizon as a famous C-130J aircraft, affectionately known as Fat Albert, followed by six signature blue and gold F-18 Super Hornets, make their way over Pensacola Beach. For the next 50 minutes, spectators will get a glimpse of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels 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. These are just a few of the mind-blowing displays of choreographed precision flying the Navy’s flight demonstration team has perfected over the past 75 years.

Traffic tips

The key to finding a place to park for a Blue Angels show is to arrive early. That means that if you wake up and the sun is out, you’re already late. The Casino Beach Park ing lot typically fills up by about 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

A trolley and bus service will be available to shuttle people as far as Park East.

If you’re parking along other roads, be warned not to park in the sand. Every year, cars get stuck in the sand and have to be towed out.

If you’re a Florida resident, getting a SunPass can make even infrequent trips to Pensacola Beach — or any other SunPass toll — a breeze. You can purchase one at CVS, Publix or Walgreens for about $5 and preload it for trips.

The Pensacola Beach toll switched to a toll-by-plate system that mails drivers a bill at a later date with a service fee.

Blue Angels plates: Blue Angels license plates to be produced in early 2021 after 3,000 voucher goal is met

Getting around the Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show

To help alleviate traffic congestion for the Pensacola Beach Air Show, the Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) is extending public transportation hours along the island on July 8, and is adding extra buses to the schedule on July 9.

The three free, open-air trolleys will begin transporting customers starting at 7:30 a.m. Friday and extend their service to Park East, located a mile east of Portofino Resort, until 6 p.m. Following that, the regular route will resume until midnight.

Starting at 6:30 a.m. July 9, the SRIA will have seven buses in addition to the three trolleys running and will extend their service area to Park East until 6 p.m. Following that, the trolleys will resume normal operations until midnight.

Trolleys will service passengers from Park East and Park West to Casino Beach throughout the day. Post-show, trolleys servicing Portofino Resort/ Park East will be staged on Via de Luna directly across from Santa Rosa Island Authority (facing east). Trolleys servicing Park West will be staged on Fort Pickens Road adjacent to The Sandshaker (facing west).

Due to traffic and congestion buildup, trolley service to the access road stops (Grand Marlin, Radical Rides/Laguna’s, Quietwater Beach and the Boardwalk) will be temporarily suspended until 6 p.m.

Passengers will only be picked up and dropped off at designated trolley stops.

Passengers who wish to get back to their vehicles as soon as the air show ends need to be on the first fleet of trolleys leaving Casino Beach post-show. Due to the gridlock that occurs immediately following the air show, riders should expect to wait as long as 90 minutes for the trolleys to return to Casino Beach if they are not on the first trip out.

What can't I bring?

  • Drones are prohibited at the beach show. All unmanned aircraft or drones will be banned at the beach through Saturday. Kites will not be allowed during the air show.

  • Glass containers

  • Pets will not be allowed on the beach (except dogs in the two designated dog park s during regular operating hours).

What should I bring?

  • Rainy weather gear

  • Lawn chairs, blankets

  • Cellphones and tablets in a Ziploc bag

  • Cameras and camcorders

  • A cooler with lots and lots of water. Beer is only going to dehydrate you and it's a long day. Don't forget the snacks. There will be thousands of people on the beach, do you really want to walk to the nearest beach bar?

  • Beach wagons

  • Beach umbrella

  • Beach hat — and keep it on, you'll look spectacular

  • Sunscreen, and reapply often

  • Wear shoes, as this time of the year, the sand and pavement can be too hot for bare feet.

The prime spot to view the show is at center point, just east of the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier at Casino Beach. Tents are allowed, but please be courteous to your new day-long neighbors.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show 2022 week: What you need to know