The New Year has come and the holidays are gone, which springs a monumental time for both incoming and returning Blue Angels pilots.  

Each January, the United States Navy Blue Angels pack their bags and head West to the Southern California desert known as the Imperial Valley. Naval Air Facility El Centro, California becomes the team's home away from home for nearly a three-month span.  

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Wednesday morning, the 2017 team loads up their stuff and heads to El Centro to begin their annual Winter Training ahead of the 2017 season opener March 11. A crucial part to the cross-country trip every year is the team's famed C-130 Hercules, known as Fat Albert.

Fat Albert is responsible for carrying all of the team's equipment and personnel necessary to complete each and every flight demonstration. In addition, Fat Albert is the team's moving toolbox, carrying enough spare parts to keep each F-18 Hornet airworthy throughout a given show season.

Currently, Fat Albert remains in Depot level maintenance that began towards the end of last season. A Marine Corps Reserve C-130, nicknamed Ernie, will fill in and carry the team and all necessary equipment to the desert.

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Once the team arrives in El Centro, they'll begin the process of completing the necessary 120 training flights prior to their season opener. The team will fly two times a day, six days a week for ten weeks. During this time, the incoming pilots will work with returning pilots to develop the skill and precision required to fly in tight formation. The Imperial Valley provides optimal flying conditions for the team day in and day out that can't be found anywhere else.

As the team begins Winter Training and progresses towards their season opener in March, stay tuned to our website and social media as well as that of the team for the latest updates.