Saturday, November 09, 2013

Hundreds gather to watch Blue Angels flyover at Naval Air Station Pensacola (photos)

PENSACOLA, Florida -- Several hundred visitors turned out at the National Museum of Naval Aviation Saturday to watch a flyover by the Blue Angels over Veterans Day weekend, as the Navy's famous Flight Demonstration Squadron marked the end of its sequester-shortened 2013 season. 

The Blue Angels performed a Delta Flat Pass and a Pitch-up Break maneuver over the museum's parking lot, but the brief flyover was a far cry from the full air show or practice that usually delights crowds across the nation during air shows and at the museum every Tuesday and Thursday during the show season. 

The Blue Angels performed only two air shows this year before the budget cuts known as the sequester forced the Navy to cancel 33 scheduled shows, including the Homecoming show at Naval Air Station Pensacola, which would have been Nov. 1-2. The Blue Angels will leave soon for their winter training facility in El Centro, Calif. 

Despite the brevity of Saturday's flyover, the people gathered at the museum were just happy to see the Blues take to the sky again. David Sampson, a former Navy pilot living in Pensacola, was in the crowd with his wife Brenda. 

"We look forward to any opportunity to watch the Blues fly and with them being curtailed this year, myself along with a lot of other people seem to be very happy to see them go again," Sampson said. 

"You can never see the Blue Angels too many times," said Howard Rundell, a retired Navy pilot who is now a tour guide at the museum.

Rundell led an afternoon tour of museum that he wrapped up in time to see the flyover just after 2 p.m.

While many in the crowd have seen the Blues dozens of times or more, there were a few first-timers as well.

One of those was Mike Williams, Sr. of Beaumont, Texas. Williams witnessed the flyover with his son Mike Williams, Jr., who just graduated from the Navy's Air Crew Candidate School at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The NACCS is the only path for enlisted Navy personnel to become pilots. 

Mike Williams, Jr. is preparing to ship off to California for the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School and hopes to eventually fly F/A-18s himself. 

Scroll through the gallery for photos from the flyover and the crowd gathered to watch it at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

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