The Columbus Air Show is Back!

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are making a bit return.

I grew up in a sprawling neighborhood of ranch and bi-level homes on the far east side of Columbus, Ohio, in the 1960s. In those days, the Vietnam War was raging and the bad and bored boys I ran with relished in the moment when fighter jets coming in and out of Lockbourne Air Force Base on the south side of the city rattled every house to its foundation with their spectacular sonic booms.

We never saw those fighter jets flying above us, but we grew up loving them while our mothers cursed the thought of broken windows that were surely likely to come.

To be clear, a sonic boom – for those who have never experienced one – is a sound associated with a shock wave when an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. Unfortunately for me and my boys, noise abatement regulations in the U.S. brought an end to the thunderous phenomenon.

When I was 5 or 6 the air base hosted an air show, putting its best aircraft on display, from enormous military transport planes to sleek fighter jets standing at the ready on the tarmac for photo ops with little kids like me donning real pilot helmets.

Those were the boyhood moments that set in stone my obsession with military aircraft.

Blue Angels pilot Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Zimmerman caught the bug as well, but he got to take that feeling to the finish line.

“I think back to the time when I was 6 years old,” he said. “I saw my first air show in Annapolis, Maryland, where I watched the Blue Angels perform. I am very fortunate to be standing here telling you that story.”

Maybe, just maybe, the 2023 Columbus Air Show will inspire new generations longing to fly.

Clearly, I am pumped about the Columbus Air Show returning to Rickenbacker International Airport in Ohio’s capital city June 16-18.

This will be the first air show in Columbus since 2007 and it will be the first time the headliner U.S. Navy Blue Angels have performed here since 1995.

This year the Blue Angels will be flying their new F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. They are significantly larger, faster and louder than the Hornets they’ve flown before.

Maybe more significantly, one of the six Super Hornets will be piloted by U.S. Navy Lt. Amanda Lee, who goes by the call sign “Stalin.” She is the first female pilot to join the famed flight demonstration team.

When asked if the Blue Angels were making a big deal of that milestone, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Vaught responded, “Lt. Lee actually said it best: ‘That plane doesn’t care what your gender is.’”

According to the Blue Angels, which were first formed in 1946 by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Chester Nimitz to raise the public’s interest in naval aviation and boost naval morale, hundreds of women have served in various roles with the Blue Angels for more than 55 years representing the best of the Navy and Marine Corps.

“We are excited to be hosting the Blue Angels in Columbus for the first time in more than a quarter century,” said Herb Gillen, president of Herb Gillen Airshows, the producers of the event. “The Blue Angels are headlining what will be one of the top air show lineups in North America in 2023.”

Gillen expects more than 100,000 guests to attend.

Two specific groups will be honored at the 2023 show: the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who tested and ferried military aircraft; and the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed group of Black pilots and airmen who served in World War II. Both groups found a home at the Lockbourne base.

Another unusual show feature will be the STOL Drag Racing Columbus Cup. STOL (Short Takeoff/Landing) is the quickest-growing motorsport in the world. The event stop in Columbus is part of a national series of air races throughout North America that will culminate at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, in September.

Another highlight of the show will be the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team.

The Raptor is the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft and one of the most sought-after demonstrations on the air show circuit. Its incredible maneuverability, aided by its computerized controls and powerful, thrust-vectoring jet engines, make the Raptor an astonishing air show aircraft. This will be the F-22’s first appearance in Columbus since 2007.

For more information about the show and ticket availability, visit

Bill Purpura is editor of AAA Magazine.


If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to fly a commercial plane, check out Take Flight Ohio.
Located in Columbus, Take Flight Ohio is a full-scale commercial flight simulator for ages 12 and up. No experience is necessary. The Adventure and Ultimate Flight packages let you choose your destination. Visit and be sure to ask for your AAA discount.

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