The skies over west Fort Worth are expected to be powder blue for much of the weekend, which is exactly what aerobatics aficionados are hoping for.
The Air Power Expo, an air show featuring the Navy’s Blue Angels, is returning to the Naval Air Station Fort Worth after a three-year absence. About 80,000 people are expected to attend the weekend of festivities, which is free and open to the public.
The lineup of performers for both days also includes the Marines’ C-130 “Fat Albert,” the Navy’s Leap Frogs parachute team and wingwalker Teresa Stokes.
The Blue Angels, which were grounded last year because of federal budget cuts, have been in the news recently after the Navy announced that a former commander of the elite squadron, Capt. Gregory McWherter, had been relieved of duty for alleged misconduct. An internal military document states that a former member of the Blue Angels filed a complaint last month against McWherter, accusing him of tolerating sexual harassment.
Still, the several thousand people who attended an air show practice session on Friday were clearly there to get a look at the headliners and their F/A-18 Hornets.
“The best part is the uniqueness of the Blue Angels,” said Austin Parrish, 17, a student pilot who attended Friday as a member of Joshua High School’s ROTC program. “Nowhere else are you going to find this.”
Base officials are optimistic that the weekend will be a success, although there’s a chance of thunderstorms Sunday.
Navy Capt. Gil Miller, commander of NAS Fort Worth, has even agreed to do a jump Saturday with the Leap Frogs.
“They offered me a ride from 12,500 feet,” Miller quipped, adding that although he has logged 10 jumps during his career he will take part in the Leap Frogs’ performance in tandem with one of the skydiving experts.
Also among the performers is Jan Collmer, former chairman of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport board. Collmer performs death-defying loops and flips in his German-built Extra 300-L aircraft.
“It’s the highest performing aerobatic aircraft with two seats,” Collmer, 79, said before his flight. The Dallas resident has performed at air shows across the region for 35 years, using six different aircraft.
Friday’s invitation-only event was for students at selected schools, as well as military families.
About 10,400 people from the various armed services are stationed at the base, Miller said. They include about 6,500 members of the National Guard and reserves, more than 2,000 active duty members of the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy and roughly 1,900 federal civilian workers.
The events Saturday and Sunday will be free and open to the public.
“We haven’t had an air show in three years, so we are really ready to open our doors to the community,” Miller said.