Look up! Blue Angels take to the skies for Naval Academy commissioning week

File photo of the Blue Angels in formation. (Amazon Prime via AP)(AP/Bobby Baldock)

A sky show unlike any other comes to Annapolis, Maryland as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels honor the 2024 Naval Academy graduating class.

The F/A-18 Super Hornets zip over the Severn River in tight, diamond formation before displaying the rest of their dazzling moves. But don’t blink, or you might miss them.

“The Blue Angels actually fly in for each show in Annapolis from Andrews Air Force Base, which sounds kind of far to us, but it’s like a blink of an eye when you’re in a Super Hornet,” Chesapeake Bay Magazine Editorial Director Meg Viviano said.

After a a practice run Tuesday at 2 p.m., the real deal is at the same time Wednesday.

“They come up the Severn River. The central focus point of the whole show is actually a white bus that is parked in the middle of the Route 450 bridge over the Severn River, and that white bus turns out to be a focal point, a frame of reference for these pilots for their full, 45-minute show,” Viviano said.

“So people wonder sometimes, when the weather Is a bit iffy, ‘Is the show going to go on today? Are they going to have to keep low?’ The answer is, if they are coming up the river and they can’t see that white bus, then the show’s not going on.”

As of now, not to worry. Clear skies are forecast for the middle of next week. As for the best view of the spectacle, some say it’s from the water itself. Hundreds of private boats anchor in the Severn River each year for the best vantage point of the show, according to the Visit Annapolis website.

Private charters, sailing tours and boat cruises are also available for guests don’t have their own boat.

As for what goes into putting on the show, Viviano spoke with fighter jet expert Ward Carroll, who was a backseater in an F-14 Tomcat.

“He was like the Goose to Maverick in ‘Top Gun,'” she said.

Carroll revealed a little bit of how the pilots pull off their breathtaking moves.

“The diamond formation, that’s usually how they lead off the show. It looks like those six planes are all working together and flying exactly in sync, and it turns out the front-center pilot is the only one who’s actually steering a course. The other pilots all around him are just steering off of him. So everything centers around that one pilot’s accuracy,” Viviano said.

So, what’s the trickiest part of the show?

“Without hesitation the hardest move they do is when you see the pilots flying in formation and then they peel off towards the sky, like in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, and then they curve back down around and cross each other at the bottom,” Viviano said.

The show is part of the U.S. Naval Academy’s 2024 Commissioning Week. A full schedule of events, starting Friday and lasting until next Friday, May 24, is available on the Naval Academy website.

The academy posted full details of traffic restrictions and campus closures on their website, which are included below.

  • USNA gates will be closed to unauthorized traffic 10:45 a.m. to 4: p.m. on May 21 and 22. Gate 8 will remain open to staff, faculty, residents, pedestrians, emergency vehicles, and high priority case-by-case vehicular traffic.
  • The Naval Academy Bridge (Md. Rt. 450) will be closed to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic at the times listed below. Vehicles entering and leaving Annapolis should use Rowe Blvd. or other alternate routes. It will remain closed by county police until traffic has been cleared from the WWII Monument (north east) side of the bridge.
  • Wednesday, May 22: Bridge closed 1:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. or till conclusion of flight demonstration.
  • The Severn River will also be closed to boating and other watercraft from the Naval Academy Bridge (Md. Rt. 450) to Spa Creek. Call U.S. Coast Guard Sector Maryland at 410-576-2693 for further details.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

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Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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