DAYTON — The United States Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team announced their arrival loud and clear Thursday morning over the skies of Vandalia just before 10 a.m. as they screamed over the Dayton International Airport. The Blues came into Dayton with their signature six-plane formation and 180 degree turn before landing single file.
The Blue Angels return to Dayton for the first time since 2012 after being grounded a year ago due to federal sequestration.
For Lt. CommanderJohn Hiltz, a native of Cincinnati suburb Ft. Mitchell, KY, the landing was somewhat of a homecoming.
“I grew up an hour south of here, and I went to the Wright Patterson Air Force Museum multiple times with my father,” said Hiltz. “It’s really exciting to be able to perform in front of family and friends and to showcase the kinds of things so many people are doing on their behalf right now.”
After graduating from Covington Catholic High School in 1998, Hiltz went to the University of Notre Dame where he graduated Cum Laude and also played basketball for the Irish. Commissioned through the Naval ROTC program, he entered naval service in 2002.
During his naval career, Hiltz has completed two deployments aboard USS John C. Stennis and flew in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He also participated in the multilateral international exercises Valiant Shield, Foal Eagle and Northern Edge. He joined the Blue Angels in September and is currently in his first year as part of the team.
“It’s a unique privilege to be able to demonstrate the pride and professionalism of the Unites States Navy and Marine Corps all throughout the country,” said Hiltz. “To be able to go into America’s hometowns and showcase what the men and women in uniform can do is a real privilege for us.”
Being idolized by young aviation enthusiasts is part of being a Blue Angel, and Hiltz remembers when he was that young boy and encouraged those interested in flying or military service to follow their dream.
“I remember being that kind of kid,” said Hiltz, “and the American military increasingly needs smart and savvy young men and women to volunteer and serve. We are an all-volunteer service, and to be able to serve your community in any way is a real privilege and honor.”
For Captain A.J. Harrell, pilot of the Blue Angels support plane Fat Albert, coming to Dayton has historical significance.
“One of the great things about coming to Dayton is the historical aspect of it,” said Harrell. “There are a lot of fans from all over the country who come to this show because of that. It’s a great chance to talk to aviation enthusiasts. There are a lot of Air Force people her, we are all Navy and Marine Corps pilots, and with all the civilian acts coming together its all about flying.”
The Blue Angels are the headline act of the Vectren Dayton Air Show, and can be seen this weekend at Dayton International Airport. Tickets are still available. For more information, visit www.daytonairshow.com.