Blue Angels return to AirFest this weekend

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Officials at MacDill Air Force Base are expecting a crowd of over 150,000 this weekend as the base opens its doors for the first time since 2016 for AirFest.

Visitors will have the chance to tour several aircraft and talk to pilots along the flight line.

Major Ryan Garlow, the AirFest director, says this is the first time Tampa will see the Navy’s Blue Angels in several years.

“They haven’t been in Tampa in eight years,” Maj. Garlow said. “And they put on an amazing performance. They train non-stop, to be precise, within feet of each other, and perform some amazing maneuvers.”

In addition to the world-famous Navy act, there will be demonstrations by the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor and the A-10.

Major Paul “Loco” Lopez, the F-22 demo pilot, gave FOX 13 a preview of what to expect. 

“They are going to see one of America’s premier fighter jets doing maneuvers that no other airplane in the world can do. You’re also going to see the plane flying fast and going to be flying low, as well as doing flips and loops and air rolls.”

The F-22 is a stealth fighter jet that can reach speeds of up to twice the speed of sound, and its pilots can pull up to 9.5 Gs. It’s also the United States military’s only fighter jet that isn’t exported to other countries.

This is Major Lopez’s first year as a demonstration pilot.

“The most exciting part is being a part of the team because you’re surrounded by amazing Americans excited for you to showcase American air power,” he said.

For those with plans to come this weekend, Major Garlow says don’t forget the sunblock or hats, because there’s not much shade on the flight line and umbrellas aren't allowed.

“Don’t bring anything you wouldn’t get through security at an airport,” he said. “You can’t bring liquids in, but you can bring empty water bottles in, and they’ll have hydrating stations all over here so you can stay hydrated.”

Doors open at 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and the acts go from 11 a.m. through 4:30 in the afternoon.