MELBOURNE, Fla. – Air show organizers and Orlando Melbourne International Airport officials are hammering out logistical details to prepare for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels to return to the skies above town in May, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
The Blue Angels will headline The Great Florida Air Show, set for May 15-16 at the airport. The pilots will fly new F/A-18E Super Hornets to mark the team’s 75th anniversary season.
“The Blue Angels haven’t been to Brevard County since 2015. So it’ll be six years in 2021,” said Cliff Graham, airport director of operations and maintenance.
“With the pandemic that’s been going on, there’s been a lot of uncertainty. There really haven’t been very many shows in the country during this whole crisis,” Graham said.
“We’re looking forward to it. The air show is a big deal to the airport. It’s really the biggest community event in the city of Melbourne,” he said.
Tickets will go on sale March 1, a month earlier than the previously announced April 1 date. Online advance tickets must be purchased at The Great Florida Air Show website — tickets will not be sold during the air show.
General admission parking will be free, with limited VIP paid parking available.
The show promoter is The Air Show Network, which last organized a Brevard County air show during the early 1990s at Patrick Air Force Base. The facility was recently renamed Patrick Space Force Base.
“We have been in business for 37 years. We’re based out of Santa Barbara. We’ve been involved in over 1,000 air shows in our 37 years. We do production shows in Nashville, San Francisco, Cape Cod, Denver, New Hampshire, to name a few,” said Mary Breen, marketing and public relations director.
Breen said additional Melbourne air show performers and attractions will be announced in late January.
The promoter’s 2021 schedule also includes The Great Tennessee Air Show, The Great Cape Cod Air Show, Wings Over New England, San Francisco Fleet Week Air Show and The Great Colorado Air Show.
The coronavirus pandemic wiped out The Air Show Network’s season this year.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have any shows in 2020 — and we were not alone. The majority of the air show industry didn’t have any shows. But we’ve taken that time to sharpen our tools and get ready for a good 2021,” Breen said.
“Our concerns are to make sure that our crowd and our team and the performers are all safe,” she said.
“We’ll adjust capacity according to CDC guidelines and keep monitoring the COVID restrictions, and have a nice, good, safe and fun show,” she said.
Promoter Bryan Lilley based his popular Melbourne Air & Space Show at the airport from 2014 to 2019. However, after last year’s event, he cited problems with the “aerobatic box” — or aerial boundaries for stunt pilots — and extra security and support costs at the south side of the airport.
In December 2019, airport officials issued a 63-page request for proposals from air show promoters in a competitive bidding process. The RFP sought a company that could create, produce, execute, and manage all aspects of a multifaceted air show with 10,000 to 20,000 attendees per day.
Among the acknowledged challenges: maintaining scheduled operations of MLB’s airlines; establishing a workable aerobatic box; securing military jet demonstration teams; coordinating with airport tenants; and complying with security requirements.
In its proposal, The Air Show Network offered to be responsible for and pay all costs associated with the event — the budget may reach $600,000 to $700,000. The company would pay the airport 20% of net profits.
The company proposed a term of five years or three shows, commencing in 2021. The Melbourne Airport Authority is expected to vote on the air show contract on Jan. 27.
The Blue Angels conducted a site visit Dec. 3 and 4 to scout the south side of the airport, where the upcoming show will be based.
Embraer’s corporate expansion at the north side of the runways forced the 2019 air show to move southward. Immediately west of Embraer’s campus, construction planning has begun on Aerion Supersonic’s future $375 million global headquarters and manufacturing facility.
The city of Melbourne charged $43,519 in permitting fees for the 2019 Melbourne Air & Space Show, covering services such as police, traffic engineering, facilities, firefighters and EMTs.
Estimated gate count during the 2019 air show was 19,921 attendees. The F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team headlined that event, making its North American debut.
The 2021 Blue Angels schedule also includes Florida dates at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville Air Show (April 10-11), Lakeland Sun N’ Fun Aerospace Expo (April 17-18), Fort Lauderdale Air Show (May 8-9), Pensacola Beach Air Show (July 10) and Naval Air Station Pensacola Homecoming Air Show (Nov. 5-6).
The first of the Blue Angels’ 18 new F/A-18E Super Hornets touched down in July at Naval Air Station Pensacola. A Navy press release describes these jets as “larger, louder, more powerful and more maneuverable” than the older models.
In Cocoa Beach, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will return to the Space Coast on April 17-18 to headline Lilley’s resurrected Cocoa Beach Air Show along the shoreline. That show will be centered at Lori Wilson Park.
Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or email@example.com. Twitter: @RickNeale1. To subscribe: https://cm.floridatoday.com/specialoffer/