The roar of elite fighter jets and military-grade seaplanes will once again thunder over Fort Lauderdale beach and its aircraft-loving spectators during the Fort Lauderdale Air Show 2019 on May 4 and 5.
Headlining this weekend’s daredevilry in the sky will be the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, whose elite demonstration team of six F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets will make their first Air Show flyover since 2006.
It’s probably the last time the Blue Angels will fly these particular aircraft over Fort Lauderdale. The U.S. Navy’s legacy Hornets, in use since 1986, will be replaced by faster, sleeker F/A-18 Super Hornets in 2021, Air Show president Bryan Lilley says.
“If things go according to schedule, this will be the last time [the Blue Angels will] fly legacy Hornets here,” Lilley says. “It’s going to be insane. Their twin engines are loud, and they’re known for precision flying three-to-four feet apart. They fly so close to each other, it’s like they become one ship.”
The rest of the Fort Lauderdale Air Show schedule will be packed with two days of near-sonic booms and high-flying somersaults, aerial loops and barrel rolls, and paratroop demos and air-and-sea races.
Here’s everything you should expect from this weekend’s free aerial fun.
What’s your price for flight?
Saturday and Sunday admission is free for spectators along Fort Lauderdale beach north of Sunrise Boulevard and State Road A1A. But if you’re angling for a prime, shady viewing spot, be prepared to splurge. Tickets to the Drop Zone Beach – a paid viewing area on the shore between Sunrise Boulevard and Northeast 14th Court – will cost $29.75 online in advance, and $40 at the gate, and include an event program and access to portable restrooms. There’s also Flight Live Club VIP ($199-$265), which includes a personal beach tent, food and a drink, and a golf-cart valet.
Prefer an aerial view of the action? The Air Show is offering a VIP penthouse ($399-$499) on the 10th floor rooftop balcony of the Pelican Grand (2000 N. Ocean Blvd.), which includes an air-conditioned ballroom, food stations and light bites, valet parking and open bar.
Here’s a cheaper aerial alternative: Watch the Air Show from the patio for free at McSorley’s Beach Pub (837 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.), or pay $75 for rooftop access (children under 5 are free), which includes an unlimited lunch buffet and soft drinks. Email John@McSorleysFTL.com for more information.
The need for speed
They’re not Maverick or Iceman, but the skies and shorelines of Fort Lauderdale will be filled with thrill-seeking pilots and captains. There will be 12 performers, but keep an eye out for these highlights:
U.S. Navy Blue Angels: Grounded in Pensacola during the off-season, the Blue Angels are known for precision flying their F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, landing atop each other and flying in the six-jet Delta formation.
U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthog: A sleek, single-seat aircraft also known as the A-10 Thunderbolt II, this fighter jet is capable of firing 3,900 rounds of armor-piercing shells per minute.
C-17 Globemaster III Demo: At 174 feet long and with a wingspan of 170 feet, this cargo aircraft hogs plenty of airspace, but it’s capable of air-dropping 102 paratroopers and their equipment.
U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor Demo Team: The most advanced fighter jet in the world, the stealthy, sleek Raptor can cruise at supersonic speeds (up to Mach 2).
United States Special Operations Command Parachute Team: Better known as the Para-Commandos, these paratroopers are composed of volunteers from every military branch.
Dash Aerosports L-39 Albatross: While it’s piloted by civilian Scott Farnsworth in real life, spectators can jump behind the cockpit in a Dash virtual-reality simulator in front of Birch State Park along State Road A1A.
Geico Sea/Air Challenge: Which is faster, a World War II-era SNJ-2 vintage aircraft or a speedboat? Answer: It depends on the surf and wind speed. The Geico Skytypers, always an Air Show crowd-pleaser for their white-smoke skywriting and aerobatic loops, will send one of their WWII aircrafts to face off against Miss Geico, a 47-foot catamaran.
Parking and road closures
No surprise here, but State Road A1A will be closed between Sunrise Boulevard and Northeast 14th Court from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 4 and May 5, and expect traffic to move at a glacial pace south of Sunrise.
Luckily, there are roughly 40 public parking lots, garages and metered spaces near the beach between Oakland Park Boulevard and Southeast 17th Street, at $1-$3 per hour. Or, avoid all that by parking at the Galleria Mall garage (2414 E. Sunrise Blvd.; $20 flat fee).
Uber, Lyft and other ride shares will pick up and drop off passengers at the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Northeast 25th Avenue, one block west of the drawbridge. Biking? Park your wheels at the bike valet on the corner of Sunrise and A1A.
Commuting from the north? Use promo code AIRSHOW for 50 percent off rides from West Palm Beach to the Fort Lauderdale Brightline station (101 NW Second Ave.).
What to bring
Yes to essentials such as backpacks (there’s a security inspection upon entry), coolers (also checked), beach chairs, umbrellas and sunscreen. Cameras are also allowed. Don’t bring personal tents or awnings, barbecue grills or outside alcohol (beer will be sold in a paid viewing area called Drop Zone Beach).
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