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More than 200,000 flock to air show, probability 'great' that it returns

Spectators from around the state and region traveled to Plaquemines Parish last weekend to witness the Blue Angels 2017 New Orleans Air Show. The United States Navy's flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, performed three days; giving the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, in Belle Chase, an opportunity to welcome over 200,000 to the base that is normally closed to civilians.

The Blue Angels fly in formation at the 2017 New Orleans Air Show on Sunday, April 23, 2017. (Photo by Chris Granger, | The Times-Picayune)

"Any military airshow, and certainly this one, is a great opportunity to open up your gates to the community and, in this case, the region to let them see what their tax dollars are paying for," said Andrew F. Thomas, the Navy base's public affairs officer. "It also piques interest in the younger crowd to maybe make the military a career or to enlist and learn some skills, and maybe get a chance to become a pilot."

During their first day of performances, the Blue Angels entertained military personnel and high school students before opening the show to the public the following days. The public responded by swarming in droves to the show -- it's been six years since the U.S. Navy Blue Angels danced their planes in the Belle Chasse sky.

The last time New Orleans held the air show was in May 2011. In the ensuing years, the amount of air shows funded decreased after cost concerns and a general decline in attendance. In recent years, the budget has increased, and the Belle Chase station is back into the rotation as a hosting site.

"If you want the Blue Angels to come to your air show, you make a request a year or so out," Thomas said. "They rotate air stations and other military installations. Our air show committee worked over a year to make this happen."

Besides the soaring flight demonstrations, spectators got an opportunity to see military aircraft on display, with pilots and crewmembers next to them to answer questions and give insight about the aircraft and military piloting.

Thomas says the odds of the Blue Angels returning in the next couple of years are great.

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