LATROBE (KDKA) — Clad in their navy blue and gold livery and ready to go, the United States’ Navy’s Blue Angels are once again on the very familiar tarmac at Westmoreland County’s Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.
“This one’s obviously beautiful and very historic,” said Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi, the flight boss. “Obviously, with the ties to Arnold Palmer going back to when he became an honorary Blue Angel back in 1959. One of the previous commanding officers and flight leaders, Boss George Dom, is from Latrobe.”
The Blue Angels will be performing this weekend in the Westmoreland County Airshow.
Cmdr. Bernacchi, the leader of this group of aviators, will be flying Blue Angel 1 at high speed, low drag and very close.
“We do fly pretty close together. You’ll see the diamond this weekend. Our closest set’s about 18 inches apart, that’s wingtip to canopy,” said Cmdr. Bernacchi. “We’ll get to as slow as about 100-120 miles an hour to upwards of 500 and 550 in formation, and then the solos on their high-speed passes will be up in the low 700s, just below the speed of sound.”
Each and every one of the Blue Angels also has been, as veterans put it, in the thick of it.
“All of our pilots have combat experience,” Cmdr. Bernacchi said.
But the planes don’t fly if sailors on the ground taking care of them aren’t on top of their game.
“We can’t make a mistake,” says Sr. Chief Sean Belt, the Blue Angels’ ground crew leader. “Each and every person that’s on the road with us has a role that they have to perform and they have to perform it flawlessly in order for us to be efficient at getting the demonstration off each and ever day.”
The team is set to take to the sky both Saturday and Sunday starting at 3 p.m. for their world-renowned flight demonstration.
For spectators, it’s amazing, and despite the grind of a 35-city schedule, team members think it’s pretty cool, too.
“We still go, ‘Wow, we get to do this,’” says Cmdr. Bernacchi.
“I love my job,” adds Sr. Chief Belt.
You can still get discounted tickets to the air show at local Shop ‘N Save stores. The tickets cost $12 each.
General admission tickets will also be available at the gate for $20. VIP passes are no longer available.