On any routine flight, flying a fighter jet at less than 200 feet over a downtown city center would be cause for losing your beloved aviator wings.
In Pensacola, however, it’s cause for celebration.
Last month, when Blue Angels commanding officer Commander Ryan Bernacchi led his team of supersonic fighter jets buzzing down Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola, hundreds of people going about their day — shopping at downtown shops, meeting coworkers for lunch, or visiting the scenic waterfront — were treated to a one-of-a-kind spectacle as they looked up into the blue skies in awe. The Navy’s flight demonstration team and its formation of six F/A-18 fighter jets, on their way home from southern California, didn’t waste any opportunity in showing their elation to be back home in the Cradle of Naval Aviation.
Now that they’re back home to kick off their 70th year of flying, the team isn’t taking any rest.
In a Blue Angels-themed town hall, overlooking the expanse of Pensacola Bay, dozens of Pensacolians turned out Monday evening to get a unique chance to meet face-to-face with the nation’s premier flight demonstration team.
“Wherever we go around the country, I truly feel like we are your team, because you welcome us so well,” said Lieutenant Ryan Chamberlain, lead solo for the Blue Angels. “What is special about this city is that here, we have that personal connection with the city. The city really does take pride in this team.”
This event, hosted by both the City of Pensacola and the Blue Angels, is meant to spark a conversation and be an interactive discussion, according to Blue Angels public affairs officer Lt. Joe Hontz.
“We want the public to engage with us,” said Hontz. “We really wanted to have a venue where we can really engage with Pensacolians and these events to get bigger and better.”
The casual forum began with introductions and background information on the team, followed later by questions from the audience.
Current team boss Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi as well as current #5 pilot Ryan Chamberlain spoke, along with public affairs officer Joe Hontz and former Blue Angels boss Cmdr. Bob Stumpf. The officers responded to various questions about the history of the team and about the experiences each member has had as a Blue Angel. Many responded with just a simple “thank you” as audience members applauded their service and dedication to the community.
“You all really mean a lot to this community,” said one member of the audience, who attended with his wife and son. “My son is five years old and he loves the jet engines. His smile is so big when he sees you guys. I just want to thank you for all you do for us.”
The next “Blues in the City” event will be held June 20 beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Sanders Beach-Corinne Jones Community Center, located at 913 South I Street in Pensacola. You can RSVP to the event here.