PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — This year marks the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels precision flight team. After being canceled by the pandemic last year, the Blues’ summer beach airshow over Pensacola Beach is back! They will be flying high above Pensacola Beach this weekend, with rehearsals over the main beach Thursday and Friday and the official show with the Blues and other aircraft on Saturday.
Each year, the Blue Angels select two lucky people to take a ride in one of the jets. The Blues select what they call “Key Influencer” from the local community, and they also select a member of the local media. The Blues select the riders from a list of nominees. This year, WKRG News 5’s Drexel Gilbert was selected to be the media rider and Gulf Breeze Elementary School teacher Mary Ann Proctor was selected as the Key Influencer. Proctor has been influencing the lives of children and teachers at the school for 18 years.
“It means so much to me, teaching,” Proctor said. “These kids are our future.”
Her dedication to encouraging young people and helping shape their attitudes fits the criteria used to select a Key Influencer to ride with a Blue Angel.
“It is such an honor!” Proctor said. “I never thought I would be able to do this.”
Proctor hopes when her students, past, present, and future see her flight, they will be motivated to appreciate the military and go for their dreams.
“I want them to know you can dream as big as you want. Your dreams can come true if you pursue them,” Proctor said. “I think that it would be great for them to think, if she could do it maybe I can do it, too.”
So, what is Proctor expecting from her flight?
“I’m just looking forward to the excitement of being in the plane, seeing what it’s like in there, being a part of that experience that not many people will ever be able to get,“ said Proctor, adding with a smile, “I also expect that I might pass out or throw up.”
UPDATE: Proctor took her ride Thursday morning in Blue Angels Jet #7 with Blue Angels Pilot Lt. Julius Bratton (call sign “Whiskers”), who is also the show’s narrator. Proctor did not pass out or throw up and said it truly was the ride of a lifetime, adding that she can’t wait to share her experience with her students to inspire them to “dream big.”
Her advice to anyone who gets the opportunity to ride with the Blue Angels? Take it! And, said Proctor, “Remember to breathe when you’re up there and to settle down and look around because it really is so beautiful!”
Drexel’s ride was postponed because of a maintenance concern. She is now scheduled to fly Friday morning.