The Blue Angels perform during Saturday’s Great State of Maine Air Show in Brunswick. Nina Mahaleris/ The Times Record.

Crowds cheered as aircraft rumbled through the sunny skies of Brunswick on Saturday at the Great State of Maine Air Show.

The airshow was the first in Brunswick since 2017. In 2020, the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 10,000 tickets were sold for Saturday’s show and another 7,500 for Sunday’s, according to Air Show Network President Jim Breen.

“The Great State of Maine Air Show was a sellout on Saturday. Awesome weather, awesome crowd, awesome flying and displays. We couldn’t ask for a better day,” said Breen.

The Blue Angels perform a Delta Breakout towards the end of Saturday’s performance. Nina Mahaleris/The Times Record.

The show was stationed at Brunswick Executive Airport. In 2011, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority was charged with guiding the redevelopment and civilian use of the retired military base.

This year marked the first time since the 2017 airshow in which the Blue Angels – the Navy’s flight demonstration team – appeared locally. The performance is regarded by many as the headlining event due to the unique and highly coordinated aerial acrobatics.

A crewmember waves to the crowd from the top of the Blue Angels’ plane, known as Fat Albert, as it prepares for take-off. Nina Mahaleris/The Times Record.

“It’s really special for us to bring these airplanes and our sailors and Marines into the backyard of New England and show folks the teamwork, the precision, the professionalism, the pursuit of excellence that exists within your Navy and Marine Corps,” said Blue Angel Squadron Executive Officer Todd Royles, who works directly with the pilots.

The Blue Angels consist of six demonstration pilots and their planes, and Royles said the show is supported by a traveling team of about 60 people. The jets fly as close as 18-inches from eachother, while performing highly technical rolls and loops through the sky.

“We start very far apart,” said Royles, describing the rigorous 10-week pilot training process. “It takes a lot of focus, a lot of training, a lot of discipline and a lot of constructive feedback.”

Blue Angel’s Cmdr. Brian Kesselring prepares for take-off Saturday during the Great State of Maine Air Show in Brunswick. Nina Mahaleris/The Times Record.

Celebrating its 75th year, the Blue Angels flew the new Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, an aircraft 25% larger than the past model that retired in 2020. In total, 28 Blue Angel performances are scheduled in the U.S. and Canada this year.

“A lot of maintenance goes into it behind the scenes,” said Blue Angel quality assurance representative Jacob Ryan, who works to maintain, fuel and keep the jets show-ready. “Come in first thing in the morning, start them up, make sure all the systems are working correctly.”

The airshow also featured other aerial acts, ground displays, concessions, souvenir booths and exhibitors.

Stationary aircraft exhibits included the KC-135 R Stratotanker, a plane designed to refuel other aircraft while airborne. The plane’s weight can reach up to 200,000 pounds.

Kids watch from behind the fence as an aircraft prepares for take-off Saturday afternoon. Nina Mahaleris/The Times Record.

“They can make out the rate at about 1,000 gallons a minute, that’s fueling another plane,” said U.S Air Force Tech-Sgt. Joshua Gray.

An MV-22 Osprey was also on exhibit, both for patrons to tour inside and as a tribute for Capt. Ben Cross, a Maine Marine who lost his life in an Osprey in 2017. The plane arrived on Friday.

“We had amazing weather and we even got to fly over Bethel, Maine, and that’s really special because that’s where Ben’s from,” said Marine Corps Capt. Virginia Cutler.

A pull-up bar competition put on by the Marine Corps was also at the event, where participates could test their strength for prizes. Staff Sgt. Kevin Correia, the station commander for southern Maine Marines, said the event allows the Marine Corps to talk to locals about the service and show support for the Blue Angels. At the time, the pull-up record stood at 26.

“Six years in, I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life,” Correia said. “The pride, the brotherhood is what I was looking for.”

One of the roughly 10,000 attendants on Saturday included Brunswick resident Annie Iacono, who said she has attended multiple airshows in Rhode Island before, and that so far, “this one wins.”

A girl climbs along the barricade during the Great State of Maine Airshow Saturday afternoon. Nina Mahaleris/The Times Record.

“The crowd is far less populated, and it is very easy to get in and out. Lines are doable, people are very kind and have a lot of manners,” said Iacono. “They sung the anthem, parachuters coming out, and just like the end, after a year of COVID, just made me feel so patriotic, even though I’m not incredibly patriotic all the time.”

A boy raises his phone over his head while sitting on a barricade to get a shot of the Blue Angels performance. Nina Mahaleris/The Times Record

The Blue Angel performances also drew a crowd of roughly 60 protestors, who spoke out against the environmental impact of the Blue Angel performance. Protestors stood near the main gate at the corner of Bath Road and Admiral Fitch Avenue late Saturday morning.

Lisa Savage, founding member of Maine Natural Guard and 2020 U.S. Senate Independent Green candidate, was one of the protestors present. The Maine Natural Guard is an organization that examines the Pentagon’s use of fossil fuels and its impact on climate change.

“This protest was to point out that the carbon footprint of an airshow like this, the Blue Angels, is huge and putting a lot, a lot of carbon in the air,” Savage said. “To be burning jet fuel for entertainment is probably not a great approach to mitigating the effects of the climate change on the ability of this planet to sustain our life.”

Savage said that the group also has the point of view that the airshows are recruiting events to encourage enlistment and that there are 140 nations that consume less fuel than the Pentagon does in a year.

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