CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - As the country is battling a global pilot shortage, the US Navy Blue Angels have continued to wow air show fans for 73 years.
The team of 130 active-duty Sailors and Marines are back in the Lowcountry this weekend to inspire others aboard the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort air show.
Live 5 News reporter and anchor Kaitlin Stansell had the opportunity to ride along with Blue Angel #7.
Navy Lieutenant Cary Rickoff took Kaitlin through the maneuvers, the speed, and the G forces, giving her a demonstration of what the pilots will be feeling when they fly over Beaufort.
Kaitlin described it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"It's an honor for me to show what these jets can do and what the team work does to get these jets flying,” Lt. Rickoff said. “For you guys to get the chance to fly in your first, probably only, ride in an F-18, it's an honor for me as well."
The key influencer chosen for the Blue Angels experience was former NFL player AJ Johnson.
He was picked for his role in the Beaufort community, living the message he’s been teaching to kids in the Lowcountry.
Kaitlin asked Johnson what kind of message he hoped to send to the kids he mentors.
“That they can do anything. These are our heroes, and for me to experience it, a little bit of time with them, it's just on a whole level,” Johnson said. “They can do anything they put their minds to and we should have more pilots and kids mindful in this world today."
The MCAS Beaufort air show is free and open to the public.