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Blue Angels prepare for show with practice for 'Wall of Fire'

By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 26, 2015

Oahu residents will have to wait a few more weeks for the next Blue Angels show, which will include a Navy pilot who grew up in Hawaii Kai, but those around the Marine Corps base today might get a visual reminder of some of the spectacle to come.

In preparation for the Kaneohe Bay Air Show on Oct. 17 and 18, the “Wall of Fire” that has accompanied shows in the past will be practiced between 10 a.m. and noon, the Marine Corps said.

The sky-high flames will be part of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force demonstration with helicopters and ground troops as one of the attractions during the air show, which is expected to draw approximately 110,000 people through the gates of Marine Corps Base Hawaii. That’s not including the thousands of people who will watch the flight demonstration from boats in the surrounding waters and from home rooftops and backyards.

The Blue Angels performed at the old Barbers Point Naval Air Station in 1995, skipped Hawaii for nearly a decade and came back in 2004, flying out of Kaneohe Bay. The Koolaus have been a Blue Angels backdrop in 2007, 2010 and 2012, with the show at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in 2014.

This is the second year in a row the Blue Angels will be coming to Hawaii with neck-snapping passes and precision flying. The fastest the F/A-18 Hornets fly is about 700 mph — just under Mach 1 — during what’s known as the “sneak pass.” The slowest speed is about 120 mph. The “diamond” formation brings the fighters as close as 18 inches.

The recruiting and morale-boost air show will have a familiar feel for veteran Blue Angels fans, but with some twists.

“Some exciting and new things that haven’t been seen in years past are the Coast Guard Search and Rescue demonstration as well as the Army CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk will be giving a flight demonstration and static display for attendees to get up close and take a look at the helicopters,” said air show director Pete O’Hare.

Aerobatic and other demonstration flying will come from the Blue Angels’ Marine Corps C-130T, nicknamed “Fat Albert Airlines,” as well as Jacquie B, Hank Bruckner, Rob Holland, Alan Miller and Mike Wiskus.

Dan Buchanan will pilot a hang glider; the Navy’s “Leap Frogs” parachute team and Flying Leathernecks will drop in for landings; and a vintage Wildcat, Avenger and SNJ are on the appearance list.

Static displays are expected to include Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1Y Huey Venom helicopters, a Coast Guard C-130 airplane and HH-65 Dolphin helicopter, and an Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter.

Lt. Matt Suyderhoud, a native of Honolulu and 2001 Maryknoll High School graduate, will be the “right wing” Blue Angels pilot, bringing his considerable flying skills back to his hometown. Suyderhoud’s twin brother, Johan, also is a Navy F/A-18 pilot.

Before all of that happens, the base said it will practice the “Wall of Fire” again Oct. 3.

©2015 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Flames explode behind the U.S. Navy Blue Angels' F/A-18 Hornets during the night portion of the 2014 Miramar Air Show aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Oct. 4. The wall of fire is the last event of the night air show.
OWEN KIMBREL/U.S. MARINE CORPS

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