Heading to the Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show this weekend? Here's everything to know (2024)

The biggest Blue Angels air show of the season (for Pensacolians, anyway) is upon us. This weekend, the Blue Angels and tens of thousands of its die-hard fans will storm Pensacola Beach to watch the U.S. Navy flight demonstration team perform over the most stunning vista on the Gulf Coast.

For local fans and the Blue Angels, this show is special. For the majority of the year, NAS Pensacola serves as the home base for the Blue Angels, and it marks the first at-home air show before the season wraps up and culminates with the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show onboard the base in November.

The Pensacola Beach Air Show isn't for the faint of heart, however. When you're in the thick of it, the beach feels as if it's at maximum capacity. It's hot, humid and you can barely move without stumbling over someone else's flip-flops. But for most Pensacolians, there's no place they'd rather be.

Everything to know about Blue Angels:Headed to your first Blue Angels air show? Here's what to know about the team

Fortunately, the air show isn't a one-day affair. Starting on Thursday, there are mounting opportunities to watch the Blue Angels perform with smaller crowds.

So, without further ado, here's everything you need to know before you head out to the Pensacola Beach Air Show.

When is the Pensacola Beach Air Show?

The Pensacola Beach Air Show will begin around noon as civilian flight demonstrations begin and conclude around 3 p.m. on July 13.

The Blue Angels are scheduled to begin flying around 2 p.m. and will perform for roughly one hour.

Pensacola Beach Air Show schedule

The Pensacola Beach Air show acts as the culmination of Red, White and Blues Week in Pensacola.

Here's the schedule for the week:

  • July 10 at 8 a.m.: Breakfast with the Blues on Casino Beach
  • July 11 at 2 p.m.: Blue Angels air show practice on Casino Beach
  • July 12 at noon: Full Pensacola Beach Air Show dress rehearsal on Casino Beach
  • July 13 at noon: Official Pensacola Beach Air Show on Casino Beach

Blue Angels over the years:Blue Angels turn 78 this year. See historic photos of Florida-based team, compare to today

Pensacola Beach Air Show parking

Parking is usually the trickiest part of attending any event. The best place to park for the Blue Angels air show is at the Casino Beach parking lot, but you'll need to arrive early. We're talking before 5 a.m. early. The main Casino Beach parking lot closed at 4:37 a.m. during the Saturday show in 2023. The lot closed at 7:47 a.m. for Friday's show.

If you don't want to wake up that early for the air show (and who would blame you?), you can find additional parking at Park East and West. It's a long walk, but you can catch a free trolley provided by the Santa Rosa Island Authority.

Can you watch the Pensacola Beach air show by boat?

Of course! In fact, watching by boat is one of the best ways to watch the Pensacola Beach Air Show. Prior to the air show, the U.S. Coast Guard will mark off areas of the water directly beneath the show, but you'll find plenty of spots to anchor and get a great view of the show.

Two of the most popular spots are near Quietwater Beach (on the east side of the Bob Sikes Bridge) and Little Sabine. Your view will be slightly obscured by some of the condos and hotels, but you'll have your own space onboard your boat and you won't have to deal with the regular traffic.

Aren't the Thunderbirds flying with the Blue Angels?

Nope. Traditionally, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels keep their fair distance from each other. Mostly because they serve very similar missions, which is to promote recruitment; however, you can catch a rare treat during the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show in November, which will have the two teams performing side by side.

Where else to see the Blue Angels:Where are the Blue Angels flying today? Here's a look at their July schedule

Tips on avoiding crowds at the Pensacola Air Show

Avoiding crowds is nearly impossible, but we have a few tips that can help you find some manageable spots to watch the Pensacola Beach Air Show in peace.

  • Consider attending Thursday's practice air show. The main air show will be held on Saturday, but on Thursday will have a practice show featuring just the Blue Angels. It will be the same performance fans will see on Saturday, but there will be fewer people around. Friday's dress rehearsal is another good option, but you'll see larger crowds than Thursday.
  • Look for spots not along the show's center point. Casino Beach roughly marks the show's center point, which is where you'll have the "best" view of the air show. However, over the years, the Blue Angels have worked to widen the air show, which means there's a wider vantage point to watch their maneuvers. With that in mind, consider setting up at some of the outlier beaches. People as far out as Fort Pickens Beach can get a good experience.

Can you swim during the Pensacola Beach Air Show?

Yes! But also no. When nothing is going on, you'll be able to swim as much as you like, as long as you observe the beach flags posted along Pensacola Beach. However, during some performances, like the Blue Angels' demonstration, the public will be told to vacate the waters.

What can you bring to the Pensacola Beach Air Show?

Here are some things you should bring with you to the Pensacola Beach Air Show:

  • Chairs, blankets or something comfortable to sit on
  • Food and snacks
  • A cooler to bring drinks and keep them cool
  • Backpacks
  • Sunscreen

You should also bring some ear protection. The Blue Angel jets are loud enough that you can feel the roar of the engines pierce through your chest.

What can't you bring to the Pensacola Beach Air Show?

The Santa Rosa Island Authority says you cannot bring the following to Pensacola Beach:

  • Glass containers
  • Alcohol (if west of the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier)
  • Open containers off the boardwalk or establishment
  • Grills
  • Dogs or animals outside of designated dog parks (excludes service animals)

Blue Angel pilots in 2024

Heading to the Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show this weekend? Here's everything to know (3)

Here are the Blue Angels pilots who will perform during the 2024 Pensacola Beach Air Show.

#1 Cmdr. Alexander Armatas โ€” Cmdr. Alexander P. Armatas is a native of Skaneateles, New York. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering.

#2 Lt. Cmdr. Jack Keilty โ€” Lt. Cmdr. Jack Keilty is a native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he attended Mount Saint Mary Catholic High School, graduating in 2005.He attended the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, where he lettered in football and earned a Bachelor's Degree in history in 2010. Upon graduation, he was commissioned an ensign in the United States Navy and reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, for Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API)."

#3 Lt. Wesley Perkins โ€” Lt. James Wesley Perkins is a native from Pordenone, Italy, grew up in Georgetown, Texas, and graduated from Hutto High School in 2009.He attended Texas A&M University graduating with a degree in ocean engineering in 2014. Perkins was commissioned as an ensign through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

#4 Lt. Cmdr. Amanda Lee โ€”Lt. Cmdr. Amanda Lee is a native of Mounds View, Minnesota. She graduated from Irondale High School in 2004, where she competed in soccer, ice hockey and swimming.While attending the University of Minnesota Duluth, Amanda enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an aviation electronics technician (AT) and reported to her first command, VFA-136 "Knighthawks." She was selected to commission as a pilot through the Seaman-to-Admiral (STA-21) commissioning program in 2009. The following year, Lee attended the Naval Science Institute (NSI) for officer training in Newport, Rhode Island, and simultaneously began her studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where she received a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry.

#5 Lt. Cmdr. Griffin Stangel โ€” Lt. Cmdr. Griffin Stangel is a native of Madison, Wisconsin, and graduated from Madison West High School in 2008.He attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in air traffic control in 2012. Immediately after graduation, he reported to Newport, Rhode Island, where he received his commission as an ensign in the United States Navy after completion of Officer Candidate School.

#6 Cdr. Thomas Zimmerman โ€” Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from St. Paul's School in 2004, lettering in football, wrestling and lacrosse.After graduation, he attended the United States Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, for one year prior to attending the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He lettered in lacrosse at both schools and graduated from the Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in ocean engineering, earning his commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy in 2009.

#7 Lt. Connor O'Donnell(Narrator) โ€” Lt. Connor O'Donnell is a native of Freeport, Maine, and graduated from Yarmouth High School in 2011.Following high school, he attended the United States Naval Academy and graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor's Degree in operations research."

#8 Lt. Cmdr. Brian Vaught โ€” Lt. Cmdr. Brian Vaught is a native of Englewood, Colorado. He graduated from Cherry Creek High School in 2004, where he lettered in lacrosse.After high school, he attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. Upon graduation, Brian worked in professional sports marketing and promotions, eventually attending Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, where he earned his commission as an ensign in the U.S. Navy in 2011."

Fat Albert pilots 2024

Lead C-130 "Fat Albert" pilotMaj. Josh Soltan โ€” Maj. Joshua Soltan is a native of Spokane, Washington, where he graduated from Central Valley High School in 2006.In 2010, he graduated from Central Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation and a Minor in Business Administration. In August of 2010, he earned his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps through the Platoon Leaders Course program. He reported to Officer Selection Office, 12th Recruiting District Seattle, Washington as an Assistant Officer Recruiter. In 2011, he transferred to The Basic School at Camp Barrett, Quantico, Virginia to complete training.

C-130 "Fat Albert" pilotCapt. Isaac Becker โ€” Isaac Van Zandt Becker is a native of Austin, Texas. While a student at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Isaac applied for the Platoon Leaders Course and attended Officer Candidate School in May of 2016. After graduating from Colorado College in May of 2017 with a degree in Geology, Isaac was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the United States Marine Corps, where he then received orders to report to The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico, Virginia. As an aviation contract, 2nd Lt. Becker graduated from Fox Company, TBS, in March of 2018.

C-130 "Fat Albert" pilotCapt. Sam Petko โ€” Captain Samuel Petko is a native of Osceola, Indiana. He graduated from Penn High School in 2009, where he wrestled and played rugby.After high school, he attended Indiana University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. In 2016, he earned a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps through Officer Candidate School and reported to The Basic School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

Heading to the Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show this weekend? Here's everything to know (2024)
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