Blue Angels fly high and low to put on a show

Union Leader Correspondent
June 29. 2012 12:18AM
Marine Corps Capt. John Hecker, pilot of the Blue Angels' C-130 support plane, talks about this weekend's Service Credit Union Boston-Portsmouth Air Show during a media briefing at Pease International Tradeport on Thursday. (Gretyl Macalaster/Unio Leader Correspondent)
PORTSMOUTH - The rolling roar of fighter jets has become a familiar sound to Seacoast residents the past few days. It's a clear signal that the Boston-Portsmouth Air Show is ahead.

On Thursday, the signature dark blue F-18s of the Blue Angels flying overhead struck a chord visually as well.

For the third year in a row, the air show will draw tens of thousands of visitors to this weekend's event. For the second time in those three years, the Blue Angels will be the headline performers.

The Boston-Portsmouth Air Show starts Saturday and wraps up Sunday at Pease International Tradeport. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

The lineup also includes the Black Diamond Jet Team, the Golden Knights - the U.S. Army Parachute Team - air show legend Sean D. Tucker, aerobatics superstar Michael Goulian, wingwalker Jane Wicker and the New Hampshire National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker.

Marine Corp Capt. John Hecker is the pilot for the C-130 airplane that accompanies the Blue Angels to each of their performance venues. Usually, he is flying Fat Albert, the typical accompanying plane for the Angels, which is painted in the signature blue and yellow. This year he is with Ernie the plain gray backup as Fat Albert undergoes routine maintenance.

What Hecker can do with the giant plane is anything but plain.

Hecker's portion of the Blue Angels performance is only about 8 minutes, but features the plane flying about 3 feet above the ground, then rapidly climbing into the sky. The rapid descent is also impressive.

But pleasing crowds is the secondary part of the C-130's mission. The primary mission is to make sure the six Blue Angels performance jets have everything they need to safely perform.

Crew member Bo Tillis with the Navy said the Blue Angels have never missed a performance because of a maintenance issue.

Hecker said everything they do in the show is to demonstrate what the Navy and Marines are doing out in the field every day, and to illustrate the pride and professionalism of the two military branches.

The entire C-130 team is made up of Marine Corp members as the military branch honors 100 years of flight service. Two of the Blue Angels pilots also come from the Marines.

In addition to the excitement overhead, the air show features acres of static displays and activities for families.

On Sunday, the show will host the VW Pull for Wounded Warriors to benefit the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire.

The VW Pull for Wounded Warriors is a giant tug-of-war where teams of up to 25 members raise money and then pull an enormous aircraft weighing more than 130,000 pounds. The BIANH is hoping to raise about $50,000 with this year's event.

The air show is jointly produced by BIANH and the Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts - two of about 30 organizations that benefit from the show.

Tickets to the air show cost $25 for adults and $20 for kids. There is also a $10 parking fee.

Tickets can be purchased at

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Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at

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