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Air Show History

The history of NAS Jacksonville Air Show

By Ron Williamson
Base Historian

Air shows have been a large part of the aviation history of Jacksonville and for the Navy. Probably the first display from the station site was in 1918, when JN4 Jenny biplanes and Curtiss Hydroaeroplanes, based at the station with the Earl Dodge aviation training camp, flew over Jacksonville to celebrate the end of World War I. 

The first air show held on the site was actually during the early 1930’s, while under the control of the Florida National Guard.  The highlight of the show was an aircraft loop, one that shocked the crowd!  The first Navy show was held on the occasion of the station’s fifth anniversary on Oct. 15, 1945.  World War II had just ended and the station threw open the gates so the citizens of Jacksonville could see the aircraft that helped win the war. 

Vice Adm. Marc Mitscher was the principle speaker at the ceremonies for the fifth anniversary and special invited guest for the air show.  This was the only show held at the station in which the Blue Angels would not perform, as they had not yet been formed. 

However, Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) remains one of only three locations where the Blue Angels have flown shows in every type of aircraft the team has used.  Air shows were held at the station with regularity until 1973.  After that year, air shows for the Navy shifted to NAS Cecil Field which remained the main Jacksonville location until NAS Jax’s 50th Anniversary in 1990.  From 1990 to 1997, air shows alternated between NAS Jax and NAS Cecil Field.  With the closure of NAS Cecil Field in 1999, NAS Jax held three consecutive air shows from 1998-2000. 

In 2001, Jacksonville Beach held their first air show and now alternates every other year with NAS Jacksonville to host the annual event. 

Below is a chronology of air shows held at NAS Jax since the installation was commissioned in 1940.

       Date

                      Featured Act(s)

 

  Oct. 15, 1945

   None

 

  June 7, 1946

   Blue Angels (Private show for Navy officials)

 

  Sept. 29, 1946

   Blue Angels

 

  Nov. 9, 1948

   Blue Angels

 

  May 8, 1949

   Blue Angels

 

  Aug. 29, 1950

   Blue Angels (30th anniversary of the first trans-Atlantic flight)

 

  Dec. 7, 1952

   Blue Angels (Pearl Harbor Tribute)

 

  Oct. 25, 1959

   Blue Angels

 

  Oct. 14-16, 1960

   Blue Angels (station's 20th anniversary)

 

  Oct. 15-16, 1961

   Blue Angels (50th anniversary of naval aviation)

 

  Oct. 15, 1963

   Blue Angels

 

  Nov. 1, 1964

   Blue Angels

 

  Oct. 15, 1965

   Blue Angels (station's 25th anniversary)

 

  July 11, 1971

   Blue Angels

 

  Nov. 3-4, 1973

   Blue Angels

 

  Oct. 13-14, 1990

   Blue Angels (station's 50th anniversary)

 

  Oct. 31 - Nov. 1, 1992   

   Blue Angels

 

  Sept. 24-25, 1994

   Blue Angels

 

  Oct. 26-27, 1996

   Blue Angels (Blue Angels' 50th anniversary)

 
  Oct. 24-25, 1998    Blue Angles  

  Nov. 5-7, 1999

   Blue Angels

 

  Oct. 15-16, 2000

   Blue Angels (station's 60th anniversary)

 

  Nov. 1-2, 2002

   Blue Angels

 

  Oct. 30-31, 2004

   Blue Angels

 

  Oct. 28-29, 2006

   Blue Angels (Blue Angels' 60 anniversary)

 

  Oct. 25-26, 2008

   Blue Angels

 

  Oct. 23-24, 2010

   Blue Angels (station's 70th anniversary)

 

  Nov. 5-6, 2011

   Centennial of Naval Aviation

 
  Oct. 24-26, 2014     Blue Angels   
  Nov. 4-5, 2017     Blue Angels   

Tentative future air shows:

2018
2020
2021 (Blue Angels 75th Anniversary)

Seven air shows have been dedicated to special VIP’s.  On Oct. 15, 1960 the second wife of Adm. John Towers was in attendance when the airfield was dedicated after her late husband for his contributions to naval aviation. 

The station’s 25th Silver Anniversary Air Show was dedicated to Vice Adm. Robert Goldthwaite.  He was in charge of aviation training at NAS Jax from 1941-43 and later served as Commander, Fleet Air Jacksonville from 1962-65.  On Oct. 15, 1990 the air show was dedicated to local Congressman Charles Bennett, and Oct. 16, 1990, to Mr. Alexander Breast, whose firm in 1943 built a large number of the buildings at the station. 

Retired Navy Capt. Roy “Butch” Voris was invited as the VIP guest for the Oct. 26-27, 1996 air show.  Voris was honored for his efforts in forming the original “Flight Exhibition Team” as well as being the first team leader of the “Blue Angels” named while stationed at NAS Jacksonville in 1946.  He was also invited back for the air show on Nov. 2, 2000. During his visit, the installation’s Air Terminal was dedicated in his name.  He continued to be the VIP guest for the 2002 and 2004 air shows. Voris passed away in 2005 and he will always be remembered as “Boss One.” 

In 2006, retired Navy Cmdr. RaleighDusty” Rhodes was the featured VIP guest. Rhodes was the third team leader of the Blue Angels while the team was based at NAS Jacksonville, and he led the team’s move to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas in October 1948.  Additionally, not only was the Blue Angels patch used today designed by Rhodes, but he was also the flight leader who transitioned the team into the jet age.  

In 2008 and 2010, retired Navy Cmdr. Al Taddeo was the special VIP guest. Taddeo, the last surviving pilot of the original Blue Angels team, flew the original number three plane when the team flew F6F “Hellcats.” Taddeo had not returned to NAS Jacksonville since being here as a squadron commander in Fighter Squadron 43 in 1954. 

The 2011 air show celebrated “The Centennial of Naval Aviation.”  Once again, Taddeo and his wife, Joan were the air show VIP guests for this special anniversary commemorating 100 years of naval aviation excellence at NAS Jacksonville.

The scheduled 2013 air show was cancelled due to government sequestration efforts. The Blue Angels announced their season would terminate early; with their last air show at flown at NAS Key West on March 24, 2013.  The air show was rescheduled at NAS Jacksonville for 2014.  Although NAS Jacksonville celebrated their 75th Golden Anniversary in 2015, it was not possible to have an air show due to a massive $51.9M runway renovation project.  The runway was officially opened on June 27, 2016 and air shows were once again scheduled starting in 2017.

 

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