The hum of the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet jet engines reverberated off the airport hangars as the signature blue and yellow fighter jets of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels touched down Monday and taxied through Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus.
Two Blue Angels pilots, Navy Lt. Cmdrs. Thomas Zimmerman and Brian Vaught, disembarked in a cold November rain at the Far South Side airport as they prepared with event organizers for their appearance at the 2023 Columbus Air Show.
“We’re honored to be a part of it and get back to the Buckeye State and put on a good show,” Zimmerman said.
Columbus air shows like Blue Angels have been rare
The Blue Angels, a flight demonstration squadron of the U.S. Navy, will perform complex and choreographed jet maneuvers, sometimes as close as 18 inches from one another, in Columbus for the first time in 28 years next summer after last visiting the city in 1995.
The Columbus Air Show, the first of its kind in the city in 16 years, will be held June 16-18 at Rickenbacker International Airport.
Zimmerman and Vaught, as narrator and event coordinator, have been traveling the 32 sites selected across the country for next year’s air show season, seeing to the logistics and ensuring safety for the performances.
On Monday, the pair departed at 4:30 a.m. Central Time from Pensacola in Florida's western panhandle and traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, where they made preparations with organizers before flying to Rickenbacker, arriving about 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Zimmerman said that Blue Angels squadron members are training in Pensacola but will move to El Centro, California, for winter training. Once there, they will do more than 120 practice flight demonstrations for their highly choreographed routines.
“Trying to perfect (our routine), so that when we get here in June, you guys get a great product and are excited and proud to look up and see Blue Angel jets fly over your city,” Zimmerman said.
This year, the Blue Angels will fly the F/A-18 Super Hornet, a larger and louder version of the F/A-18 Hornets they have flown for more than 30 years.
“A lot of the good from the old shows, but with some new flair,” Vaught said of the new jets.
Zimmerman, who has been a naval aviator since 2012, said he remembered seeing the Blue Angels at a Maryland air show and being inspired to fly.
"And I'm standing here today," Zimmerman said. "So somewhere out in that crowd could be the next Blue Angel."
The Columbus Air Show, presented by Scotts, is a newly formed show that organizers expect to attract more than 100,000 guests. Several other acts also are scheduled to perform, including vintage aircraft, stunt planes and a jet car.
Herb Gillen, producer of the event, said the air show “was excited to be hosting the Blue Angels in Columbus for the first time in more than a quarter century.” Tickets for the air show are available on the event's website: columbusairshow.com.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Blue Angels to fly new jet at 2023 Columbus Air Show