For most, the Fourth of July is best celebrated with fireworks — an impressive, but harmless, display of firepower put on by communities across America. But for those lucky enough to be in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, or Traverse City, Michigan this year, it will be celebrated with fighter jets like the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and the F-16C Fighting Falcon roaring through the skies at breakneck speeds, doing high bomb burst maneuvers, diamond dirty loops, and barrel roll breaks. “It’s a very patriotic event,” says Blue Angel #5, Lieutenant Commander Mark Tedrow. “I just think it’s one of those things that reconnects the military with the American public. It inspires people.”
Air shows aren’t uniquely America, however. England is known for its Royal Air Force team, the “Red Arrows”, one of the best displays in the world. And then there are private teams, likes France’s Breitling Jet Team which made its first appearance in the U.S. this year (and can be next seen in Milwaukee on July 25th). “Americans audiences are a very enthusiastic group of aviation enthusiasts,” says Jacques Bothelin, leader of the Breitling Jet Team. “They are so much fun to perform for.” One unique maneuver Bothelin’s team has brought to American audiences this year is his signature apache roll, in which four aircraft fly along the horizon, while a fifth planes does barrel rolls around them. “I don’t think anyone could see that for the first time and not be very impressed,” he says.
The maneuvers that the Blue Angels pull while in their signature formation — the classic 4 jet diamond with two solo jets flying rings around them — is impressive too. They might argue, more so: “We, the Blue Angels, think we have the best demonstration in the world,” says Tedrow. But there’s mutual respect among the teams of all nations: “These guys are really good at what we do; they’re professionals, just like we are,” says Blue Angel Mark Tedrow. “We all kind of try to live up to the same standards, and that’s to put on a spectacular show.”