Jan. 16--When Lt. Ryan Chamberlain calls a morning meeting, he doesn't need doughnuts or coffee for an inducement to attend.
He just rolls up in his monogrammed $21 million F/A-18 A Hornet and the people flock to him.
That's how it was Wednesday morning in Duluth, as Chamberlain, a pilot for the elite Navy demonstration team the Blue Angels, brought his plane into the hangar at AAR Aircraft Services.
He was there to meet with organizers of the Duluth Airshow, set to start Aug. 23, and others vital to the staging of the event -- police, fire and airport officials. People working on airliners at the aircraft maintenance shop did their best to take in the sight of the sleek jet, snap some pictures and then go back to work.
"Every day, it's still a thrill," Chamberlain said of his time with the Blue Angels that began in 2012. The Angels haven't been to the airshow since 2008, when throngs of people attended the biannual event.
The Blue Angels, along with a coinciding "Navy Week," are expected to bring crowds back to an event that has seen attendance dip in recent years.
Last year's sequestration cuts meant many of the Blue Angels shows were canceled.
"You're going to see aviation greatness at its best," Chamberlain said.
His group leaves no detail to chance, and the meeting Wednesday was expected to last four hours. The Angels will do it again dozens of times more, with more than 30 shows schedules from March to November.
Each show venue is different, Chamberlain said, but the same preparation goes into all of them, whether they are annual stops or not.
"The pilots are new every year, so planning is always a part," he said.
Lt. Cmdr. Ron Flesvig said the "Navy Week" events will be a treat for Northlanders. It last took place in Duluth in 2003.
"We want to bring the Navy story to places that might not have the exposure," Flesvig said. While the Air Force and its local 148th Fighter Wing are well known, the Navy isn't, Flesvig said.
"This is our chance to tell the Navy story."
The event includes displays and musical performances and other recruiting enticements.
Airshow president Ryan Kern said the meeting Wednesday is just a small part of the overall picture when organizing the two-day show. Each performer in the show has a local liaison and intricate planning goes into each performance, Kern said.
The 2014 Duluth Airshow will include a dozen aerial acts, which Kern expects to formally announce this month.
Copyright 2014 - Duluth News Tribune
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