All eyes were turned to the sky last weekend as planes zoomed overhead and pilots performed death-defying maneuvers during the Vero Beach Air Show, presented by Piper Aircraft to benefit the nonprofit Vero Beach Air Show, Inc., which supports the charitable endeavors of three local Exchange Clubs and the Veterans Council of Indian River County.
The Blue Angels were right at home at the Vero Beach Regional Airport, which served as a Naval Air Station during World War II. Their much-anticipated return thrilled the crowds as flight teams displayed their iconic diamond formation while reaching air speeds of up to 750 mph. No matter the age, fans watched the ballet in the sky with wide-eyed wonderment.
“We are the smallest community they play,” shared retired Col. Martin Zickert, the local Blue Angels liaison. “We are also the community where their airplanes are closer to the audience than any other air show they do. I’ve done this for a lot of years, and I still get goosebumps when they fly over.”
Blue Angels slot pilot Lt. Cmdr. Nate Scott, a fourth-generation military serviceman, explained that their mission is to inspire a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach.
“We can’t take people onboard aircraft carriers and show them what we do on a day-to-day basis. How we do that is through air shows like this. Not to just inspire people to join the military, but also to inspire them to think about things greater than themselves. Think about excellence and what that means, and to inspire that culture of excellence in whatever they do,” said Scott.
Other thrilling performers included the F16 Viper Demonstration Team, GEICO Skytypers, the Screamin’ Sasquatch, a jet truck, aerobatics and skydiving demonstrations.
And on the ground, there was a Family Fun Zone, plenty of food and static displays of a variety of military and civilian aircraft, including the Tinker Belle, a 1945 C-46 Commando; a United States Coast Guard air-sea rescue helicopter; and a Seahawk; which provides anti-surface combat warfare support.
“I think you get out of your community what you put into it,” said Robert Paugh, Vero Beach Air Show president. “There’s nothing better than watching a person walk through the gate, unfold a chair, grab their son or daughter by the hand, go pick up a hot dog and a beverage, and sit back and watch them see this whole thing unravel. I wish I would have done this as a child. It brings a smile to my face.”