BY MICHAEL WALTON
TRAVERSE CITY — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are set to return to the National Cherry Festival in 2014.
The Navy’s flight demonstration team will fly along the shores of West Grand Traverse Bay during the Festival Air Shows July 5-6, 2014, Cherry Festival officials said.
Cherry Festival Executive Director Trevor Tkach said the Blue Angels add excitement and anticipation to the nation’s largest cherry celebration. He also said the air team helps draw bigger crowds to Traverse City.
“No matter how many times you’ve seen the act, it catches your attention,” he said. “If you look down the shores of West Grand Traverse Bay, it’s packed.”
The 2014 visit will mark the flight team’s 12th festival performance.
Cherry Festival spokeswoman Susan Wilcox Olson said the Blue Angels didn’t come to Traverse City this year because of a conflict with a War of 1812 celebration in which they participated.
“The Blues now release their show schedule two years in advance,” she said. “So we were thrilled to learn we are back on their rotation schedule.”
Blue Angels pilots fly the F/A-18 Hornet, a twin-engine jet capable of traveling at 1.7 times the speed of sound, according to a Blue Angels website.
The 16 Navy and Marine Corps officers who fly the converted fighter-jets perform choreographed, Navy-trained flying maneuvers during Blue Angels shows. Maneuvers include barrel rolls, vertical loops and tight flying formations.
Blue Angels pilots also fly a four-engine C-130 propeller plane named "Fat Albert." The behemoth aircraft has a wingspan of more than 132 feet and can carry up to 45,000 pounds of cargo.
Traverse City is one of about 16 destinations the Blue Angels plan to visit during summer 2014.
For more on their schedule, visit blueangels.navy.mil/media/show/2014ShowSchedule.pdf.