Blue Angels to return to Beaufort air show two years after fatal crash

More than two years after one of their teammates lost his life in a fiery crash in a wooded neighborhood in Burton, the Blue Angels will return to Beaufort to honor his memory.

Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will announce today the return of the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Blue Angels, to the air station's 2009 air show. The team will perform May 16 and 17 to an audience expected to total more than 150,000 people, according to the air station. The event will be free to the public.

Despite the crash in April 2007 that killed Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Davis, the air station is proud to once again play host to the Blue Angels, said Capt. James Jarvis, air station spokesman.

"We're excited that the Blue Angels are coming back," Jarvis said. "Returning here means a great deal to the team, as they want to put on a good show to honor their fallen aviator who died here in 2007."

Davis crashed during the final moments of the 2007 air show. Eight people on the ground were injured, and dozens of homes were damaged.

Navy investigators concluded that Davis, a 32-year-old native of Pittsfield, Mass., became disoriented during a sharp turn that created gravitational forces almost seven times greater than normal.

In the performance's last maneuver, Davis was trailing the other pilots and accelerated to more than 425 mph. The sudden force caused him to lose awareness of his speed and altitude.

Davis' F/A-18 Hornet clipped several trees and broke into pieces that were strewn across backyards near the intersection of Shanklin and Pine Grove roads.

Investigators say Davis never lost consciousness and likely steered the jet in its final moments to avoid hitting homes.

With thousands of people expected to attend the show -- many of them spending the night in Beaufort -- local businesses can be expected to reap the rewards of the Blue Angels' return to the air station, said Carlotta Ungaro, president and CEO of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"I think even in light of the tragic events that unfolded the last time the Blue Angels were here, people will still show up, if only to support the team," she said. "Any time you have an event like this come to Beaufort, it's great for the local business community. The fact that this is not an annual event also helps, because it makes it all the more special."

The air station is the host for the air show every other year. The air show, formally titled "Blues Over Beaufort," also will feature performances by Patty Wagstaff, a three-time U.S. Aerobatics Champion, as well as European Championship and World Grand Prix of Aerobatics winner Jurgis Kairys.