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Blue Angels alumni welcome current crew to Billings

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Posted at 6:52 PM, Jan 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-16 11:06:44-05

It's been 35 years since the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels put on a show in Billings.

The squadron of high flying air acrobats will be here in August gave a Yellowstone International Air Show preview on Friday.

As a U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet landed at Billings Logan International Airport, the sights and sounds brought some memories for some.

"That is neat to watch the next team and so it's kind of special for us," said U.S. Air Force Brigadier General (ret.) Kendall "Thumper" Switzer. "Brings back a lot of memories flying. In our day in 1991, we did not do Montana airshow."

Switzer lives in Bozeman and while he was in the Blue Angels, he also served in the U.S. Air Force.

He was in the Blue Angels along with U.S. Navy Captain (ret.) Randy Duhrkof in the early 1990s.

They were in positions seven and in eight, the only two-man crew on the Blue Angels, which arrives ahead of the rest of the team to set up shows and handle the public relations.

"Number seven is the narrator on the team so he'll narrate the show but he also flies all the VIPs and the media for that," said Duhrkof, who served in position eight with Switzer in position seven. "And then number eight is responsible for setting up the air show."

They say there's a special bond in the military, with the Blue Angels and positions seven and eight.

"One team one fight one big family," said Duhrkoff.

"There's been an amazing group of men and women who have come before us so to meet these guys in person is pretty amazing," said Lt. Commander Brian Vaught, who is the number eight with the current crew.

"We all have a similar background and a similar training that we've gone through," said Lt. Commander Thomas Zimmerman, is the current number seven. "So there's our immediate memories and immediate things that we can just fall back on and just kick it off like we've known each other for years."

The full show will feature some of the U.S. Navy capabilities, Aug. 12-13 at the Yellowstone International Air Show. Tickets will go on sale next month.

It's the first air show in Billings since the early 2000s and the first Blue Angels in visit in Billings since 1988.

"The flying that they do now, it's far superior to what we could ever do," Switzer said. "So that makes us feel good."