Santa Rosa County is not under attack.

The various aircraft flying above your home is headed to NAS Whiting Field for the 23rd annual Gulf Coast Fleet Fly-In.

Aircraft started arriving on Monday and will be in the area until Friday, as the student pilots will get a better understanding of different flight platforms.

Some of the helicopters expected this week include the U.S. Coast Guard MN-60T and MH-65D; U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E, UH-1Y, and
AH-1W; U.S. Navy SH-60B, MH-60R, MH-53E, MH-60S, and HH-60H according to NAS Whiting Field Deputy Public Affairs Officer Jay Cope.

Cope also stated that the Royal Canadian Air Force would participate in the fly-in with a CH-124.

NAS Whiting Field plays a huge role in air training for the U.S. military, as it is the initial helicopter training facility for the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps.

Commander Paul Bowditch, who is the commanding officer of HT-8 and president of Region FIVE for the Naval Helicopter Association, this week, will serve two purposes.

“For many of the pilots who trained here, this event is sort of a homecoming. It’s exciting to see them come back and share their stories with the students and get them excited about the fleet,” Bowditch said. “It kind of puts the light on at the end of the tunnel for them.”

Helicopter pilots in training at NAS Whiting Field can sign up for one of three time slots to not only fly in one of the aircrafts but also become familiar with the controls.

Other events designed to help the students and pilots include a golf tournament, cookout, 5K run, and other opportunities where students can gain information before deciding on a future career choice.

Last year alone over 250 flight students at NAS Whiting Field participated and gained some experience flying a fleet aircraft, which is more powerful and fly differently than the training helicopters.

“It’s a big job with a lot of moving parts, but we get a lot of support from the local community and the various helicopter squadrons,” said Lt. Spencer Allen, coordinator of the Fleet Fly-In. “Last year, over 250 flight students got to experience flying the fleet aircraft, and I expect to have at least that many this year. When you see how wide-eyed the students get after flying in a fleet aircraft, well, it’s pretty exciting.”



Blues in the Air



There will be plenty of aircrafts in the air this week as the Blue Angels will be practicing over NAS Pensacola in preparation for the Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. The Blue Angels will practice at 8:30 a.m. most Tuesdays and Wednesdays, weather permitting. For updated information call the Blue Angels Public Affairs Office at 452-2583.