Lt. Cary Rickoff and Lt. Commander Adam Kerrick took one of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels jets from Fort Lauderdale to Key West on Monday.
The two-seat F/A-18B Hornet made it in 15 minutes.
“It’s awesome,” said Kerrick, of the ride. “You just hear the air rushing by. When you’re up high you can’t really tell how fast you’re going. When you come down low you get a sense of that rush of the ground coming at you.”
“It’s like flying a little snappy sports car,” Rickoff said. “It’s a blast every day.”
The jet is about as old as Kerrick is.
“Our maintainers are really top-notch,” said Kerrick, 36, a Philadelphia native. “They take really good care of these awesome aircraft. They do such a great job on these really old jets that are nearing the end of their life expectancy.”
The pilots came from Pensacola to Naval Air Station Key West on Monday to finalize the details for an air show this spring.
The Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron and other military and civilian aerial performances will light up the skies of the Florida Keys on Saturday and Sunday, March 30 and 31, 2019, at the Naval Air Station Key West’s “Southernmost Air Spectacular” air show at Boca Chica Field.
There is no admission charge and parking is free. Gates open at 9 a.m. and the show begins at 10 a.m. The Blue Angels take the air at 2:30 p.m.
About 50,000 people attended the two-day show in 2016, making it one of the largest family-friendly events in the Keys, local Navy officials point out.
The Blue Angels will also perform in the Fort Lauderdale Air Show on May 4 and 5. It’s the first time they’ve appeared in Fort Lauderdale since 2006.
Rickoff, 32, an Atlanta native and a graduate of Duke University, is in his first year on the team and has been on the road for the last four weeks visiting the show sites for the 2019 season. He joined the Navy in 2009.
The Blue Angels will do two-day shows at 32 locations next year.
“The thing I enjoy the most is watching the team work together as one big unit,” Rickoff said. “Six demonstration pilots flying as one formation is all pretty incredible to see.”
Kerrick grew up watching Blue Angels shows as a kid with his grandfather in Pennsylvania.
“It’s kind of eerie sometimes, you really have to pinch yourself,” he said of wearing the blue flight suit. “It’s so rewarding.”
He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2005 and was active duty Navy until 2013, when he joined the reserves.
“It’s always been in the back of my head,” Kerrick said of volunteering for the Blue Angels. “I just decided to submit my package and they picked me up. It’s an honor to be here. I get to honor my grandfather and, of course, all the guys and girls out there serving right now.”