June 28, 2012

Air Show in Latrobe (PA) Features the Navy Blue Angels


AIR SHOW IN LATROBE (Pennslyvania)


I wasn’t seated in the best spot to watch the Westmoreland County Air Show last weekend. I wasn’t on the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport  (Latrobe, Pennsylvania) tarmac.

I was on a grassy hill on the nearby St. Vincent College campus.

I chose being in the shade because I had a lobster-red sunburn acquired on Lake Erie during a visit there—at a time when the temperatures reached almost as high as the century mark that many persons seek to live to. Being with my two young grandsons I stayed in the water too long. But then, that’s another story.

My choice of watching the show from the college campus meant I could watch the show while luxuriating in the shade of a canopy of limbs belonging to old unidentified trees.

It also meant I would miss all the activities below the tree line and on the ground—among them the Smoke ‘N Thunder jet car run, the Medical helicopter demonstration with local Emergency Medical Services, and the Alabama Boys, Greg Koontz comedy routine and truck top landing (this last I watched today on the Internet:

I also missed an up-close view of the North American B-25 Mitchell medium-range bomber, a World War II relic. The B-25s were used by Lt. Col. James Doolittle and his men who flew the first raid over Tokyo in April 1942, about four months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.3


More important, I missed being in as close a proximity to the Navy’s Blue Angels as was possible, which meant that I lost opportunity to nudge up to a pilot who was willing to stow me away in his bright blue and yellow plane and fly me to his upcoming show in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where I suspect they are practicing as I write this post.

Portsmouth is where I spent the first eleven years, in my grandparent’s house.  Perhaps, today, the Blue Angels and other aircraft in the show are flying over at 29 Spring Street, just a short bus ride from Wallis Sands Beach in Rye, New Hampshire. They must also be flying over the Pisquatauqua River, the Atlantic Ocean, and Boston (since the show’s location is listed as the Boston-Portsmouth).

To make matters somewhat worse, on June 16-17, the weekend before coming to Latrobe, the Blue Angels were flying in the Rhode Island National Guard Air Show at Quonset  ANGB, North Kingstown, R I.—where my father, Robert W. Cornell, was stationed when I was born in Providence. He was a career Navy man, a chief photographer’s mate, who traveled the world, and who took many pictures of airplanes.

Had we not postponed our travel to New England, I might have watched the Blue Angels in either Portsmouth or Quonset ANGB.


In spite of the missed opportunities the air show in Latrobe was awetastical.

My husband Monte left to do errands after we located a great spot at St. Vincent College. Mine was the first chair there. Under the arch of several trees I was guaranteed shade for the entire show, although I stepped out into the sun during some of my photography shooting.

Shortly after I settled in a couple, accompanied by a child, arrived. We chatted, and sought the best spot to place our chairs before the five-hour show began.

The Army’s Golden Knights parachutists appeared, from my vantage point, to be yellow and black birds high in the sky. Although I tried, I couldn’t do justice for pictures, and only shot them as best I could. Although I retrieved some pictures, they are not what I consider great.

I quickly discovered that what I learned when I shot flying osprey in Northern New York was very helpful. I knew where to focus, what setting worked best, and that many of the pictures would turn out, well, not so great. If you’ve tried shooting a fast moving target in the sky you know what I mean.

Because I was running about with my camera, my new friends kept checking the schedule and directed me as to the direction planes were coming, since it is difficult to locate the fast moving objects while looking into the camera.

“Over to your left.” “Turn to the right.”

Soon the area we had chosen was filled with spectators.

The family’s instructions were of great assistance, especially when the Blue Angels were flying overhead.

Another advantage of being on the campus was that I could shoot photographs of planes flying over Chestnut Ridge and the Arnold Palmer airport.


Following the parachutists was Sean Tucker Oracle Challenger aerobatics teaser, his plane flipping through the air. Other acts included Rob Holland (no relation) MX-2 aerobatic teaser, Jack Knutson Exta 300 aerobatics,  Firebirds Extreme Aerobatics team, Warbird Flight B-25s, and the U. S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet demonstration.


My daughter Sandy couldn’t attend the show. She has never been a show spectator in spite of the fact that she was at the airport during several shows before 1997. At the time she was a paramedic working as a part of the emergency crew—she was on a golf cart, a crash crew, and first aid assignments. As such, she didn’t get to see much.

She said the show wasn’t too much different today than back then. However, the show featured sometimes featured the U. S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds rather than the Navy’s Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds, as is the case today.

Sandy had the opportunity to go through the C130, a cargo plane where the back opens to do drops from the air.

During one show Sandy was part of the crash crew, located close to the runway. There was such a terrific thunderstorm that the Thunderbirds were called in. Numerous persons took refuge under the awning of a truck providing drinks, one of them leaning against the truck’s smokestack. Apparently lightning struck the smokestack and traveled through four or five people. One lady was holding a baby. A couple of persons were transported to medical facilities.

Another time the deafening noise of the planes broke the windows at Rusbosin Furniture & Flooring store across the highway from the airport.

She recalled that one of the pilots was killed in a car wreck after performing at the air show. He was coming from a party at Rolling Rock. I couldn’t locate any information on this catastrophe on the Internet.



The United States Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, also known as the Blue Angels, is the top air show ticket seller in the US.2

In 1946, while the team members were preparing for a show in New York City during their first season, one of them saw the name of the Blue Angles nightclub in the New Yorker magazine, which the team picked up for their squadron.1

The F-18 fighter jets pierced the skies at 650 mph, buzzing the airport at a mere 50 feet above the ground. They couldn’t be heard until they passed, and they flew so close together in their diamond formation that just eighteen inches separated the planes speeding at 460 mph, according to the Blue Angels lead solo pilot in plane No. 5.6


Between 1974 and 2001 the Westmoreland County Air Show was an annual event. The late July 2001 show featured the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds.

The show was cancelled in 2002 in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was resumed last year without the draw of the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds.3

I must agree with the Tribune-Review’s assessment: Laurel: To organizers of the Westmoreland County Air Show. The spectacle in the sky roared back to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport with the Navy’s Blue Angels squadron and the Army’s Golden Knights special parachute team, attracting a crowd of more than 50,000 spectators. Here’s to new memories from a grand air show5



Two Photographers Named Cornell:

My Childhood Home: 29 Spring St., Portsmouth, N. H.:

Navy Yard Broadcast from Pearl Harbor: Part 3

Change the Name of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations?

Rhode Island: Part 1

Googins Island, Maine: An Osprey Sanctuary

Osprey in New York’s St. Lawrence Valley








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