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Angels Overhead
Blue Angels aircraft takes off from Kennedy Space Center Image above: One of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels takes off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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Employees at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are accustomed to seeing a lot of action in the skies overhead. But there was something unusual in the airspace on April 7: a sleek F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, one of the U.S. Navy's famed Blue Angels.

Pilots Lt. Frank Weisser and Lt. Dan McShane were visiting Kennedy to make preparations for the precision flying team's headline performance at the 2008 Space & Air Show at Kennedy Space Center, which is set for Nov. 8 and 9.

The air show will be only the second time the Blue Angels have performed at Kennedy. Their demonstration includes high-speed passes, fast rolls, mirror formations, tight turns and their signature Delta formation.

To help plan for the performance, Weisser and McShane boarded a Huey helicopter for an aerial tour of the "aerobatic box," the portion of Kennedy airspace where the flying team will carry out its thrilling maneuvers.

The spaceport "provides an absolutely fantastic backdrop for an airshow," said Weisser, who pilots the #7 aircraft and serves as the narrator during the Blue Angels' demonstrations.

Lt. Frank Weisser and Lt. Dan McShane, Blue Angels pilots Image above: Blue Angel pilots Lt. Frank Weisser and Lt. Dan McShane arrive at Kennedy. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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McShane agreed. "Flying around this facility, seeing things that you always see covered on the news and in the media... it was breathtaking."

Hosted by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the 2008 show will feature several aerial demonstrations in addition to the Blue Angels, including an astronaut rescue simulation performed by the 920th Rescue Wing based at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. In addition to the action in the air, aircraft and space-related exhibits will be displayed on the ground in the viewing area. Astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs will be available for autographs and photos.

NASA's commander and pilot astronauts, as well as several mission specialist astronauts, are current and former U.S. military pilots. Many come to the space agency from the U.S. Navy.

"The chance to join with fellow aviators, and fly at their home, is really a phenomenal opportunity for us," Weisser remarked. "The fact that there are so many Navy pilots who have gone on to become astronauts is something we brag about time and time again as Blue Angels, and as Navy pilots, and as servicemen of this country."
Anna Heiney
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center