Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 24, 2004

At the end of World War II, Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, then the Chief of Naval Operations, ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to keep the public interested in naval aviation. It worked! The Blue Angels performed their first flight demonstration less than a year later in June 1946 – and now, nearly 60 years later, you can see the 2004 Blue Angels demonstration team on Saturday and Sunday, April 17 and 18, at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss.

The “Wings Over Meridian 2004” air show will be a celebration of flight and recognition of the team effort that exists between our community and the Navy to produce the finest jet pilots in the world.

The show will feature the Blue Angels exhibiting the choreographed refinements of Navy-trained flying skills. Their demonstration presents the graceful, aerobatic maneuvers of the four-plane “diamond” and the fast-paced high performance maneuvers of the solo pilots in the number five and six jets. It also spotlights all six jets performing together in the renowned “delta” formation.

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Also, sure to be a crowd-pleaser will be the JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) by Fat Albert, the name affectionately given to the squadron’s C-130. Eight solid-fuel rockets attached to the sides of the C-130 help Fat Albert take off in less than 1,500 feet, climb at an angle of 45 degrees and attain an altitude of 1,000 feet in minimum time.

Opening the show will be the U.S. Army Special Operations Command parachute demonstration team, known as the Black Daggers.

They will exit their aircraft from an altitude of 12,500 feet and free fall for about two miles at approximately 120 miles per hour before opening their flexible wing glider parachutes.

To perform maneuvers, they will fly their bodies using their hands, arms, legs and shoulders to control their flight.

Also appearing will be the aircraft presently in use at NAS Meridian — T-2C

Buckeye, the Navy’s oldest jet trainer; T-45C Goshawk, the Navy’s newest jet trainer; and the Search and Rescue team’s HH-1N Huey, the workhorse during the

Vietnam War.

Other military acts performing in the air show include:

* MH-60S Knighthawk, Navy’s newest and most capable helicopter;

* F/A-18 Hornet, backbone of Navy and Marine Corps aviation;

* T-37 Tweet, Air Force’s primary flight trainer;

* T-38 Talon, Air Forces’ high altitude, supersonic jet trainer for advanced student pilots;

* A-10 Thunderbolt, responsible for destroying more than 1,000 tanks and 3,000 military support vehicles in the Personal Gulf War;

* KC-135 Stratotanker that carries up to 200,000 pounds of fuel; and

* EA-6B Prowler, the only radar jamming aircraft in the U.S. military’s arsenal.

Civilian aerobatic acts include:

* Tim and Andrew Boyd, a father and son combo, who make up the Pitts Specials Formation Aerobatic Team, who will deliver a crowd pleasing performance with lots of smoke and noise;

* Gary Ward, who will race around the sky in his specially, built unlimited aerobatic Giles G-202;

* Greg Koontz, who will perform breath taking stunts in his Super Decathlon, a lightweight, ultra-maneuverable aircraft;

* John K. Moody, the father of ultra lights, who has a one-of-a-kind comedy act featuring one of the very first ultra lights;

* Fred Cabanas in his Hawker Mk X “Sea Fury; and

* BGen Reg Urschler in his P-51 Mustang.

Additionally, there will be a bombing run by a B-17 Flying Fortress, “Memphis Bell.”

Another highlight will be the war bird display including:

FM2 Wildcat, C-47 Skytrain, SBD-5 Dauntless, B-25 Mitchell, TBM Avenger, C-45/SNB Expeditor, T-28 Trojan, Stearman N2S4 Kaydet, Stearman PT-17 Kaydet, Stearman N2S1 Kaydet, L-17 Navion, T-6 Texan, SNJ-5 Texan, L-19 Bird Dog, Yakolov Yak-9, Yak-52, Glassair, RV-4, and Monster Pitts.

Other demonstration aircraft include:

MIG-15 Fagot, L-39 Albatros, BAC-125 Strikemaster, and Hughes 500.

Mark your calendars for Saturday and Sunday, April 17 and 18, and make plans to help NAS Meridian celebrate training excellence at the “Wings Over Meridian” air show.

The gates will open at 9 a.m., and admission will be free.

Air show parking will be accessible via Highway 39 and Highway 45. People with “Handicap” identification on their vehicles should arrive via Highway 39.

Don’t forget to bring your cameras, sunscreen, chairs, and strollers for the little ones. Food, beverages and souvenirs will be available for purchase from the concessionaire. No coolers, pets, alcohol, bicycles, scooters, backpacks or weapons permitted!

All bags will be inspected; all vehicles subject to inspection.

For more information about the air show and about what and what not to bring, please check out the air show web site at