Blue Angels Practice For Weekend Air Show in Duluth

Updated: 08/21/2014 10:23 PM
Created: 08/21/2014 6:19 PM
By: Laurie Stribling

It's breathtaking and maybe a little nerve racking to watch, but it's a typical day at the office for Lieutenant Commander John Hiltz.

"This is my third season on the Blue Angels," Hiltz said. "I've been in the Navy for 12 and half years."

The Blue Angels went up for a practice run Thursday. They're in town for the Duluth Air Show that kicks off on Saturday.

"We have the ability to go around the country to showcase what the Navy and Marine Corps are capable of," Hiltz said.

That includes flying in formations within 12 inches of other planes. Hiltz said they don't use a special censor; it's all done by sight.

"It's indicative of the kind of trust and teamwork you have to have if you're fighting in the America military," Hiltz said.

Also in town this week, Maintenance Chief Bruce Kunkel who is originally from Rochester.

"It feels awesome anytime you can come back to the great state of Minnesota," Kunkel said.

Kunkel helps keep the blue planes flying. It's a lot of work given some of them are 20 years old.

"This is kind of considered our grandpa of the fleet, but it's a true fighter," Kunkel said about the plane that Hiltz flies.

Spectators looking forward to the Duluth Air Show may be concerned about the forecast this weekend. The Blue Angels said heavy rain, heavy fog or lightening nearby would ground them, but they are determined to get up in the air to entertain.

"We're very flexible," Hiltz said. "We have several different versions of our performance that we can do. We have a high show, low show and a flat show."

The Blue Angels have a dress rehearsal planned for Friday. They'll be performing Saturday and Sunday at 2:45 p.m.

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