It’s an iconic part of the US Navy Blue Angels air show at Pensacola Beach.
A pair of blue and gold FA-18s cruises along the coast, tracked by thousands of eyes. Then, out of nowhere, SKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESH!
A Hornet streaks low overhead in an ambush/flyover at 700 mph — then a second flashes over from the blind side. It’s called the Sneak Pass — a flyby, buzz-the-tower fright-flight that surprises every time — even if you expect it.
The Fleur-de-Lis, the Opposing Knife-Edge Pass, the Diamond Dirty Loop — these names are just part of the mind-blowing displays of choreographed precision flying the Navy flight demonstration team has perfected over the past 70 years.
Every year, thousands migrate to Pensacola Beach to watch our hometown heroes perform with the beautiful Gulf of Mexico as a backdrop.
So, naturally, you want to experience the Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Airshow when it takes to the skies on July 8.
But maybe you could use a few tips from air show vets so you can maximize the fun.
Breakfast With the Blues
Red, White and Blues Week is a continued celebration stemming from the Fourth of July on Pensacola Beach.
Then, on July 5, it’s Breakfast with the Blues. About 8 a.m. the Blues arrive over Pensacola Beach and perform a series of maneuvers. It’s called Circle and Arrival — the pilots get familiar with the airspace and land-references for the show. The Blues will throw in some screaming high-rev crowd-pleasers during the morning flight.
You can pull up a beach towel and watch from the soft sand while you drink your coffee and gluten-packed bagel. Or, you can take a prime seat at the Casino Beach Bar & Grill, Crabs We Got ‘Em, or the nearby beachfront hotels and watch the action.
Then, on Thursday, the Blues take to the skies again. This time it’s a full practice show that starts at 2 p.m. — their usual show time. You’ll see the entire Blues’ part of airshow from start to finish. The only thing missing will be thousands of beachgoers, so if you have the time to kill on a Thursday…
On Friday, it’s Dress Rehearsal day for the Blues. The Blue Angels’ air show is always preluded with civilian flight demonstration teams. And this year, the U.S. Navy SEAL Leap Frogs are on the schedule.
Starting at noon, the Dress Rehearsal takes flight — a full-fledged airshow that will include the guest flying stars to prelude the Blue Angels. The show includes the aerobatics of Redline, Skip Stewart. Julian MacQueen, Veterans Flight, Kevin Coleman and the SEAL skydiving team. The secret is out on these early shows, so get there early and give yourself plenty of time if you’re driving over the bridge. If you already are on the beach, stroll on over!
Strike early, stay for dinner
If you’re driving to the show, make like you’re going sunrise fishing. The prime spots in the sand at center point — where the maneuvers make maximum effect — get claimed early in the morning. Get there before 7 a.m. Last year the Casino Beach parking lot filled to capacity before 6 a.m. Trolleys will be in service to help take you to the main beach.
Tents are allowed, so be courteous to your new daylong neighbors. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Before the Blues take to the sky at 2 p.m., be sure to take a dip in the water and cool off because the Gulf is off limits during the live performance.
Airshow organizers make sure there are plenty of supplies on hand, so you can grab a bite to eat while you get ready for the show. There are also are cool zones to enjoy.
There are so many vantage points. Some of the nearby hotels with balconies provide an unbelievable view. Boaters in Little Sabine can lounge on the sandbars while jets streak overhead.
When the Blues make that final pass, many are packing up their tents and folding up the beach blankets in a mad dash to their rides. Traffic is never a joy, so it puzzles me why people get in a rush to wait in traffic. Instead, go check out a band in one of the local venues. Hit the boardwalk, or grab dinner and share stories about what your favorite maneuver.