Air Shows have been a large part of aviation history for the Navy as well as the community in Jacksonville, FL and the surrounding areas. It’s likely that the very first unofficial show happened in 1918, when a group out of the Earl Dodge Aviation Training Camp flew over Jacksonville to celebrate the end of World War I. Under the control of the Florida National Guard, other air shows took place with crowd shocking aircraft loops never seen before, but the first Navy air show was held on the 5th Anniversary of Naval Air Station Jacksonville on October 15, 1945. NAS Jax opened its gates to the citizens of Jacksonville so that they could see the aircraft that helped win the war.
World War II had just ended and the Navy wanted to engage the public and keep the Navy in good spirits. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz (Chief of Naval Operations) decided to form a flight demonstration team, which we now know as The Blue Angels. He named Lt. Cmdr. Roy “Butch” Voris as the new flight team’s commander. A private demonstration took place on June 7, 1946 at Jacksonville’s own Craig Field, now known as Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport, and the first public demonstration followed on June 15, 1946 at NAS Jax. The Blue Angels team flew the Gruman F6F Hellcat Fighter plane that had been used during WW II.
NAS Jax held regular air shows through 1973, when the show moved its primary location to NAS Cecil Field, now Cecil Airport. It wasn’t until 1990, the 50th Anniversary of NAS Jax that the Air Show returned to that location. From 1990 through 1997, the Air Show alternated annually between NAS Jax and NAS Cecil Field, until the latter closed in 1997 sending the show back to NAS Jax for the next few years. In 2001, the Air Show moved out to Jacksonville Beach for the first time, giving the public a different view of the show from their beach chairs and blankets. Currently, the Air Show alternates between NAS Jax and the Jacksonville Beaches.
Over the years, Voris was invited back as a VIP Guest to the Air Show. He passed away in 2005, but will always be remembered as “Boss One”. Another member of the original team from 1946, Al Taddeo, has been back to many Air Shows as a VIP Guest as recently as 2011 when the Air Show celebrated “The Centennial of Naval Aviation”.
At last year’s Air Show, the number in attendance was approximately 300,000 people over the course of the weekend. NAS Jax eagerly anticipates the 2018 show and all the performers.
“The partnership between Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Jacksonville International Airport is an important endeavor for this community. With hundreds of planes sharing airspace weekly within the area, knowing we are unified not only makes our missions and training successful, but ensures the safety of commercial aircraft as well,” said Naval Air Station Jacksonville Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Connor.
NAS Jax invites the community to join in the fun October 27-28. For information about the show, visit our website.
Written in partnership between JAA & NAS Jax