The Gulf Coast great drawing card: The U.S. Navy Blue Angels
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Posted: Wednesday, May 02, 2012
by Joel Hendon
One of the most consistent and spectacular attractions on the Gulf Coast is that of the great practice sessions of the Navy’s fantastic Blue Angels. Even though they are located just over the line inside the state of Florida, they are still considered a part of the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama extravaganza of entertainment spectacles.
The show is so fantastic, it is estimated that 11,000,000 people view their shows annually. They currently fly the Navy’s Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, especially modified with the equipment needed for precision flying. They also have one Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, affectionately referred to as “Fat Albert” which is used to transport their equipment, and also actually takes part in the show.
Their show season runs from early March into early November. There are 76 shows scheduled for 2012, 13 of which have already been performed. To see their official 2012 schedule, click here. http://www.blueangels.navy.mil/media/news/20110111_001.pdf
But the beauty of the Gulf Coast proximity to the Blue Angels’ home base is that they have practice sessions during the show seasons on a regular basis. They have them most Tuesdays and Wednesdays unless their show schedule interferes or some other causes, such as inclement weather, holidays or some unforeseen situation. And, the admission is free as is the parking.
Their remaining schedule for practice sessions this year is as follows:
Note: Dates with an asterisk are dates when the pilots have an autograph signing session following the practice, usually each Wednesday. May 1, 2*, 8, 9*, 15, 16*; June 5, 6*, 12, 13*, 19, 20*, 26, 27*; July 17, 18*; August 8*, 9, 10, 14, 15*, 21, 22*; September 5*, 11, 12*, 18, 19*; October 17*, 23, 24*, 30; (Official website practice schedule) http://www.blueangels.navy.mil/media/show/2012PracticeSchedule.pdf
These practice sessions are normally very similar to the regular shows and last approximately one hour. The session begins at 8:30 A.M. and those who wish to see it all are encouraged to arrive somewhat earlier since traffic normally gets quite heavy as the time nears.
The fastest speeds flown in these sessions are almost to the speed of sound, however, they do not break the sound barrier. This top speed is achieved as they perform the “sneak pass” where they appear from just over the trees and pass over at the lowest level of the show, 50 feet. The sound is quite loud for this but is not from a sonic boom. Their slowest speed of the show is approximately 150 miles per hour which is the speed for the high altitude maneuver which they refer to as “Section high alpha”.
The viewing area for these sessions is located in back of the U.S. Naval Air Museum at National Museum of Naval Aviation, 1750 Radford Boulevard, east of Orange Beach, Alabama. To find it from Orange Beach, drive East on Beach Boulevard (AL Hwy 182/ FL Hwy 282) towards Pensacola, continue on across Perdido Key. The road is called various names: Sorrento Rd./Perdido Dr. and just after you come across a bridge (Look for Food World & a Water Tower), turn right (East) on Gulf Beach Hwy/ County Road 292A. Travel on until you see Blue Angel Parkway where you will turn right (South). You will go straight to the National Naval Aviation Museum. (directions obtained from Gulf Shores Alabama Condo Rentals Orange Beach & Perdido Key website)
When planning your vacation in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, be sure to copy these directions and plan to visit this spectacular performance by the U.S. Navy’s elite aircraft pilots. Rest rooms and snacks are accessible in the museum from the viewing area.
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