The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will be ‘smoke-on’ over the Smoky Mountain Air Show this weekend as they join the Air Force F-16 to headline the inaugural event filled with live music and entertainment.
Great weather is expected over the first Knoxville air show in 16 years as the Navy’s premiere flight demonstration squadron performs on Saturday and Sunday before an estimated 42,000-plus guests each day. The Blues will be joined by the Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team and several top civilian aerobatic performances at the McGhee Tyson Airport.
The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team arrived two hours following the Blue Angels arrival at the adjacent Tennessee Air National Guard Base on Thursday. Lead by pilot Major Craig “Rocket” Baker, the F-16 is a multi-role fighter used around the globe.
“It’s gonna be loud, it’s gonna be fast,” Rocket said proudly upon arriving at the base. “My profile takes me from 200 feet above the ground to 15,000 feet. From a slow speed of 115 knots to close to the speed of sound all with 15 minutes and within a mile of the airport.”
Major Baker added one of his favorite moments of the air show will be the Air Force Heritage Flight as he performs a formation flight three feet away from a World War II-era P-47. “It is a really unique way to honor those who have gone before us and fought for the freedoms we have today, and those who are fighting today,” he added. “If you don’t get chills while you watch it then check your pulse because it’s pretty special.”
The Blue Angels are early into their 35 show site schedule as they celebrate the squadron’s 70th anniversary season. The team’s six blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets and the crowd favorite C-130T known as a Fat Albert are scheduled to perform beginning at 3 p.m. both days.
“It’s a first time for the air show and we’re so excited,” said Angel 5 lead solo pilot LT. Ryan Chamberlin moments after the team’s arrival into Knoxville on Thursday. “It’s one thing to go to a city we visit every year, it’s another to go to a city that’s been starved of an air show for so long — in fact for over a decade. We’re really excited for the weekend.”
Lead by first year Commander and Boss Ryan J. Bernacchi in Angel 1, the Diamond Team includes LT. Matt Suyderhoud, LT. Lance Benson, LT. Andy Talbott. The dynamic two solo pilots who push the envelope of what the Hornet can do are LT. Chamberlain and opposing solo Capt. Jeff Kuss.
As the aircraft soar overhead, many current and past aircraft are scheduled to be on static display. The Air Force F-22 Raptor, a 21st century stealth fighter, and the Marines AV-8 Harrier will not fly and instead allow guests an up close look at the two premiere aircraft.
Also on the air show grounds is the Smoky Mountain Kids Area where youngsters can play and take part in activities and games for a few prizes during the day. Gates open at 10:00 a.m. and event organizers stress for guests to bring cash as food stands will not take credit. The parking areas will open earlier at 8:00 a.m.