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Ready for takeoff! Blue Angels start new season at NAF

The Blue Angels start the 2023 season at Naval Air Station El Centro on Saturday morning

El Centro, Calif. ( KYMA, KECY-TV ) - After months of training at their winter home on the El Centro Naval Base, the Blue Angels are set to begin the 2023 season this Saturday at the 52nd annual Air Show.

“We have redesigned the layout of the Air Show to give our guests a more robust and entertaining venue,” said Marc Willis, the Air Show Director. “From the entrance to the airfield to where you will see the action, the event was re-imagined to create more viewing opportunities and enhance the ability to interact with the statics and performers."

Among the final preparations ahead of the air show was the key influencer and media ride along which took place on Wednesday. Scott Gross from KYMA-TV was selected for the media ride while Manuel R. Estrada, a 14 year veteran with the El Centro Sector Border Patrol was selected for the key influencer seat.

"I'm really excited," Estrada said. "We went through the mission brief and the safety requirements and just trying to memorize that and rehearsal it in my head so I'm prepared and enjoy the flight."

Our pilot in the #7 F-18 Super Hornet Foxtrot is Lt. Cmdr Thomas Zimmerman. Lt. Commander Zimmerman just joined the Blue Angels in September.

We were pushed to our limits with barrel rolls, flying upside down, Hovering over the Salton Sea at low altitude while also experiencing weightlessness and extreme G-Forces. We pierced through the California skies at 630 knots which is equivalent to around 725 mph.

"As much as I wanted to break the sound barrier with you guys, we're weren't allowed to," Lt. Cmdr Zimmerman said.

Instead we pushed the G-Force limit topping out at 7.5 G's.

"An experience of a lifetime," Estrada said. "It was more than I expected, a lot more than what I expected."

Fans and spectators will get the chance to see all the Blue Angels hard work and skills put on full display on Saturday morning in El Centro at the Naval Air Station, gates open at 8:30 a.m. PST.

General admission and all parking is free. This year, the base is also celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Women Flying in the Navy with many special guests in attendance.

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Scott Gross

Scott Gross joins the KYMA team as the Anchor, CBS Sports Director, and Executive Producer.

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