Beaufort News

Weather to determine which Blue Angel performance Beaufortonians will see

Weather likely will play a role in the kind of show the Blue Angels perform this weekend at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the team's commanding officer says.

"We will adjust the show based on the conditions that day," Cmdr. Greg McWherter said Thursday, moments after the Blue Angels' six F-18 Hornets touched down at MCAS Beaufort. "As long as there's no lightning, heavy rains or wind or any other weather condition that could impact the safety of the crowd, we'll be good to go."

Foul weather appears to be a possibility for the 2009 Beaufort Air Show, taking place Saturday and Sunday at the air station. According to the National Weather Service, there is a 30- to 40-percent chance of thunderstorms both days.

The Blue Angels must have at least three nautical miles of visibility and acloud ceiling of at least 1,500 feet. Under these conditions, the Blue Angels can perform a "flat" show, which features a number of limited maneuvers, according to the squadron's Web site.

When the ceiling is up to 3,500 feet, the team can perform a "low" show, which includes some rolling maneuvers. With a minimum ceiling of 8,000 feet, the Blue Angels can perform their "high" show, which includes all maneuvers.

"We have five iterations of our show, so we're probably looking at some variation of our flat show," McWherter said.

For a handful of the Blue Angels' officers and enlisted crew members, Thursday's arrival in Beaufort was something of a homecoming.

Sgt. Patrick Webb, a crew chief on the No. 5 F-18 flown by Maj. Nathan Miller, was a Parris Island Marine and later stationed at MCAS Beaufort with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, the Thunderbolts.

"When I was at Parris Island, I really didn't get off the island that much, so I was excited to come back here and get to experience the community," said Webb, who joined the Blue Angels in December. "The people here are amazing. Beaufort is really a different type of community when it comes to supporting the military and everything they do. A lot of the people at this base have never been to an air show, so it's really great that we get to come here and show them what these jets are capable of doing."

While focused on preparing for their two demonstrations this weekend, McWherter said memories of the 2007 crash that killed opposing solo pilot Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Davis haven't been far from the minds of the team's pilots and crew.

Davis crashed his F-18 Hornet in a wooded Burton neighborhood three miles west of MCAS Beaufort after becoming disoriented during the final moments of the team's performance in 2007. The crash injured eight people on the ground and damaged dozens of homes.

"We have talked about and it certainly weighs on our minds and hearts," he said. "I think this team has done a very good job of learning lessons from that tragedy and trying to move forward, but to say that we haven't talked about it or thought about it wouldn't be the truth."