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Jetting With the Blue Angels

The Blue Angels herald as the flight demonstration team of the United States Navy. The Navy formed this aerobatic flight team in 1946. Known as the Blues, they are the second oldest flight demonstration team in the entire world. The Blue Angels consist of six demonstration pilots who fly the F/A-18 Hornet at over thirty-four locations across the nation. While the team has advanced its practices and eye-catching stunts, it still showcases the many maneuvers that made them spectacular in 1946. The Blue Angels host more than seventy shows, with more than fifty thousand people visiting a show per season. The Blue Angels have performed shows for more than two hundred and sixty million spectators since their inception.


1940s: The Blue Angels came into existence on April 24, 1946 by Admiral Chester Nimitz. Nimitz ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to showcase the naval air prowess, morale and might of United States naval aviation. In addition, Nimitz felt that it would fuel interest in allocating funds to a dwindling defense budget. After countless hours of assembling and training a competent flight team, the officers in charge of the naval aviation team ordered the first demonstration in front of a private audience consisting of Navy officials. After an enthusiastic response, the team moved forward with their inaugural performance at the naval air station located in Jacksonville, Florida. At this event, the team flew an SNJ Texan that resembled a Japanese fighter jet to give off an impression of aerial combat. The Blue Angels amazed spectators with its low maneuvers, which gained the team a reputation as respectable aviation arm in the United States Navy.

1950s: The Blues performed nationwide until the onslaught of the Korean War in 1950. After the start of the Korean War, the team disbanded and faced combat duty. As the strongest members of the naval aviation squadron, the members formed the core of the Navy's aviation combat unit. A year later, the team regrouped at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. The team remained in Texas for four years before they relocated to Pensacola, Florida. In September of 1956, the team added another aircraft to the flight exhibition team, also known as the Opposing Solo position, where it gained international recognition in Toronto, Canada .

1960s: The Blue Angels flexed their aviation arm over Mexico City in front of one and a half million people in July of 1964. The team spent its time touring across several sites featured in the Caribbean and Europe, where they received a standing ovation at the Paris Air Show.

1970s: The Blue Angels received the KC-130F Hercules, a United States Marine Corps aircraft, in 1970. The Blues toured in South America in 1970 before flying over the Korea, Japan, Guam, Taiwan, and the Philippines. In 1973, the team spent time touring in Europe and even flew over Tehran, Iran.

1980s: The Blue Angels commemorated their 40th anniversary by showcasing the F/A-18 Hornet. The Hornet allowed them to perform sharp angles of attack with tail sitting maneuvers. In addition, Donnie Cochran joined the Blue Angels. He was the first Africa-American to fly for the team.

1990s: The Blue Angels deployed for a European tour in several countries. It was the first time in 19 years that the team conducted a European tour. Donnie Cochran led the Navy Blues in 1993.

2000s: The Blue Angels marked their 60 th anniversary in 2006. In October of 2008, a spokesperson announced that the team would perform its remaining performances with only five aircraft due to an officer who was reprimanded for engaging in inappropriate relations with another officer.

2010s: The Blue Angels performed in Lynchburg, Virginia on May 22, 2011. After a low-flying maneuver went below the minimum altitude, the team aborted and the remainder of the demonstration was canceled. After several show cancellations, the Blue Angels announced that the squadron's commanding officer would be stepping down. Captain Greg McWherter, the team's previous Commanding Officer, replaced him. The team continued to cancel shows to practice under McWherter's leadership. The Blue Angels finally took to the skies between September 2 nd and 4 th of 2011.

Blue Angels Today

The Blue Angels flight exhibition season starts at the beginning of March and ends in November of each year. The Blues perform at both military and civilian airfields. Most of their routine consists of the Diamond and Opposing Solo formations. The Opposing Solos join the Diamond formation near the end of the show to create the Delta Formation. The team tailors each show in accordance to local weather conditions. This usually entails a high show for clear days, and a low show when overcast appears in the skies. The team has to choose wisely in order to keep themselves safe from potential accidents.

All team members come from the ranks of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The demonstration pilots and narrator consist of Navy and Marine Corps aviators. Demonstration pilots typically serve between two and three years, and gain their position assignments according to team needs, skill levels, and career opportunities. The 2013 United States Navy Blue Angels roster consists of sixteen active members, including Thomas Frosch as the Commanding Officer. The Pentagon spends roughly 37 million dollars for the Blue Angels out of a 645 million dollar annual budget. Issues of eliminating the acrobatic team have arisen as cuts in the defense budget continue to grow.

Interesting Facts

  • The Blue Angels, a dramatic television series, was filed with the cooperation of the Navy. It was inspired by the team itself and starred Dennis Cross and Don Gordon.
  • The Blue Angels featured Captain Chuck Brady, an astronaut, on their squadron.
  • In 2009, Mythbusters sought the help of the Blue Angels to determine if a sonic boom could break glass.
  • The Blue Angels reached 700 miles per hour with the F/A-Hornet at one of their shows, the fastest time recorded by this flight exhibition team.
  • Each of the Blue Angels' aircraft has a blue cobalt and gold color tinge to them.
  • NAS Pensacola has been the home-base of the Blue Angels since 1955.
  • The Blue Angels fighter jets burn 1,200 gallons of fuel per hour.
  • Donnie Cochran was the first Africa-American to fly for the Navy Blue Angels.
  • A total of sixteen officers voluntarily serve for the Blue Angels.
  • The Commanding Officer for the Blue Angles is nicknamed the "Boss."

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