Blue Angels roar in on heels of storm

Precision fliers part of academy tradition

May 25, 1999|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

As dark, late-morning skies spat lightning bolts, belched thunder and spewed rain, calls swamped the Naval Academy switchboard: Will they still come?

The clouds rumbled east, the sun reappeared and the six jets of the Blue Angels aerobatics team screeched over Annapolis.

The Navy's supersonic stunt flying team continued its 46-year tradition of performing spectacular aerial feats above the grounds of the Naval Academy as part of the school's pre-graduation Commissioning Week festivities.

This year's performance was darkened by more than passing clouds. Many spectators were angry because they were not allowed to watch the show from a waterfront field that for decades has been the preferred spot for viewing the Blue Angels.

The academy's Dewey Field was off limits this year, the result of a dispute with a homeowner across the Severn River.

The dispute began last year, when Washington lawyer Brendan Sullivan, whose house is directly across from the academy on Homewood Road, refused to move a backyard lawn party.

The Federal Aviation Administration had ruled that Sullivan's house was inside a spectator-free boundary required at air shows.

Last year, the FAA clamped down and asked the homeowners to move. Sullivan refused.

Facing the possible cancellation of the show, Adm. Charles R. Larson, a former academy superintendent, crossed the river to plead with Sullivan. Sullivan agreed at the last minute to shift his festivities down the street.

This year, to avoid another showdown, the academy and the Navy negotiated with the FAA and reached an agreement to move the 2,700-foot pedestrian-free zone toward the academy and away from Sullivan's house.

Moving the restricted area 150 feet to the southeast meant that spectators weren't allowed onto Dewey Field.

"I don't like it one bit," said Micki Hudson, who drove from San Antonio to see her son P.C. graduate tomorrow.

Pub Date: 5/25/99

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