The Blue Angels' show season runs each year from March until November. They perform at both military and civilian airfields, and often perform directly over major cities such as San Francisco's "Fleet Week" maritime festival, Cleveland's annual Labor Day Air Show, the Chicago Air and Water Show, and Seattle's annual Seafair festival.
During their aerobatic demonstration, the Blues fly six F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, split into the Diamond Formation (Blue Angels 1 through 4) and the Lead and Opposing Solos (Blue Angels 5 and 6).
Most of the show alternates between maneuvers performed by the Diamond Formation and those performed by the Solos. The Diamond, in tight formation and usually at lower speeds (400 mph), performs maneuvers such as formation loops, barrel rolls, and transitions from one formation to another.
The Solos showcase the high performance capabilities of their individual aircraft through the execution of high-speed passes, slow passes, fast rolls, slow rolls, and very tight turns.
The fastest speed flown during an air show is 700 mph (just under Mach 1) and the slowest speed is 120 mph.
Some of the maneuvers include both solo aircraft performing at once, such as opposing passes (toward each other in what appears to be a collision course) and mirror formations (back-to-back. belly-to-belly, or wingtip-to-wingtip, with one jet flying inverted). The Solos join the Diamond Formation near the end of the show for a number of maneuvers in the Delta Formation.
The parameters of each show must be tailored in accordance with local weather conditions at showtime: in clear weather the high show is performed; in overcast conditions a low show is performed, and in limited visibility (weather permitting) the flat show is presented. The high show requires at least an 8,000-foot (2,400 m) ceiling and visibility of at least 3 nautical miles (6 km) from the show's centerpoint. The maximum ceilings allowed for low and flat shows are 3,500 feet (~1 km) and 1,500 feet (460 m), respectively.
The Blues' F/A-18 Hornets are former fleet aircraft that are nearly combat-ready. Modifications to each aircraft include removal of the aircraft gun and replacement with the tank that contains smoke-oil used in demonstrations, and outfitting with the control stick spring system for more precise aircraft control input. The standard demonstration configuration has a spring tensioned with 40 pounds (18 kg) of force installed on the control stick as to allow the pilot minimal room for uncombined movement. The Blues do not wear G-suits, because the air bladders inside them would repeatedly deflate and inflate, interfering with the control stick between the pilot's legs. Instead, Blue Angel pilots tense their muscles to prevent blood from rushing from their heads and rendering them unconscious.