Blue Angels

The United States Navy's Blue Angels (or Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron), formed in 1946, is the world's first officially-sanctioned military aerial demonstration team. The United States Air Force has its own demonstration squadron, the Thunderbirds, which began operations in 1953.

The Blue Angels first flew three aircraft in formation, then four, and currently operate six aircraft per show. A seventh aircraft is for backup, in the event of mechanical problems with one of the other aircraft, and for giving public relations "demonstration flights" to civilians, usually selected from a press pool.

This aerobatic team is split into "the Diamond" (Blue Angels 1 through 4) and the Opposing Solos (Blue Angels 5 and 6). Most of their displays alternate between maneuvers performed by the Diamond and those performed by the Solos.

The Diamond, in tight formation and usually at lower speeds, performs maneuvers such as formation loops, barrel rolls, or transitions from one formation to another.

The Opposing Solos usually perform maneuvers just under the speed of sound which showcase the capabilities of their individual F/A-18s through the execution of high-speed passes, slow passes, fast rolls, slow rolls, and very tight turns. Some of the maneuvers include both solo F/A-18s performing at once, such as opposing passes (toward each other in what appears to be a collision course, narrowly missing one another) and mirror formations (back-to-back. belly-to-belly, or wingtip-to-wingtip, with one jet flying inverted).

At the end of the routine, all six aircraft join in the Delta formation. After a series of flat passes, turns, loops, and rolls performed in this formation, they execute the team's signature "fleur-de-lis" closing maneuver.

The parameters of each show must be tailored to local visibility: in clear weather the "high" show is performed, in overcast conditions it is the "low" show that the spectators see, and in limited visibility (weather permitting) the "flat" show is presented. The "high" show requires an 8,000 foot ceiling and visibility of three nautical miles from the show's centerpoint. "Low" and "flat" ceilings are 3,500 and 1,500 feet respectively.

On April 24, 1946 Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Chester Nimitz issued a directive ordering the formation of a flight exhibition team (the first such official venture by any of the Armed Services) to boost Navy morale, demonstrate naval air power, and maintain public interest in naval aviation. However, an underlying mission was to help the Navy generate public and political support for a larger allocation of the shrinking defense budget. In April of that year, Rear Admiral Ralph Davison personally selected Lieutenant Commander Roy Marlin "Butch" Voris, a World War II fighter ace, to assemble and train a flight demonstration squadron, naming him Officer-in-Charge and Flight Leader. Voris selected two fellow instructors to join him (Lt. Maurice "Wick" Wickendoll and Lt. Mel Cassidy, both veterans of the War in the Pacific), and the three spent countless hours developing the show. The group perfected its initial maneuvers in secret over the Florida Everglades so that, in Voris' words, "...if anything happened, just the alligators would know." The team's first demonstration before Navy officials took place on May 10, 1946 and was met with enthusiastic approval.

On June 15 Voris led a trio of Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats, specially modified to reduce weight and painted sea blue with gold leaf trim, through their inaugural 15-minute-long performance at the Southern Air Show at Jacksonville, Florida's Craig Field. The group, known simply as the "Navy Flight Exhibition Team," thrilled spectators with low-flying maneuvers performed in tight formations, and (according to Voris) by "...keeping something in front of the crowds at all times. My objective was to beat the Army Air Corps. If we did that, we'd get all the other side issues. I felt that if we weren't the best, it would be my naval career." The Blue Angels' first public demonstration also netted the team its first trophy, which sits on display at the team's current home in Pensacola.

The team soon became known worldwide for its spectacular aerobatic stunts. During a trip to New York, Lt. Wickendoll came across an advertisement in The New Yorker for the city's popular "Blue Angel" nightclub. Voris liked the name and on July 19 officially made it the team's moniker. On August 25 the squadron upgraded their aircraft to the F8F-1 Bearcat. Though Voris left the team on May 30, 1947 the "Blues" continued to perform nationwide until the start of the Korean War in 1950, when (due to a shortage of pilots) the team was disbanded and its members were ordered to combat duty. Once aboard the aircraft carrier USS Princeton the group formed the core of VF-191, Satan's Kittens.

The Blue Angels were officially recommissioned on October 25, 1951, and reported to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. Lt. Cdr. Voris was again tasked with assembling the flight team (he was the first of only two commanding officers to lead the group twice). By the end of the 1940s, the Blue Angels were flying their first jet aircraft, the Grumman F9F-2 Panther, but now would be utilizing the newer and faster version of the Panther, the F9F-5. The Blue Angels remained in Corpus Christi until the winter of 1954, when they relocated to their present home at NAS Pensacola, Florida. It was here that they progressed to the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 Cougar. The ensuing 20 years saw the Blue Angels transition to two more aircraft, the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger (1957), which would be best known for its use as a demonstration plane, and the huge double-sonic McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II (1969), the only plane to be flown by both the "Blues" and the United States Air Force Thunderbirds.

In December, 1974 the Navy Flight Demonstration Team downsized to more economical subsonic McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II and was reorganized into the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. This reorganization permitted the establishment of a commanding officer, a flight leader, added support officers, and further redefined the squadron's mission emphasizing the support of recruiting efforts. Commander Tony Less was the squadron's first official commanding officer.

On November 8, 1986 the Blue Angels completed their 40th anniversary year during ceremonies unveiling their present aircraft, the sleek McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, the first multi-role fighter/attack aircraft now serving on the nation's front lines of defense since the F-4 Phantom. The power and aerodynamics of the Hornet allows them to perform a slow high angle of attack "tail sitting" maneuver, and to fly a loop with landing gear down in formation, neither duplicated by the Thunderbirds. The Blue Angels also operate a C-130T Hercules nicknamed "Fat Albert" to provide support and (at selected venues) put on a show of its own with a jet-assisted take off (JATO) before the "Blues" begin their demonstration. "Fat Albert Airlines" flies with an all-Marine crew of three officers and five enlisted personnel.

The Blue Angels perform more than 70 shows at 34 different locations throughout the United States each year, where they still employ many of the same practices and techniques in their aerial displays as they did back in 1946. Since their inception, the "Blues" have flown for more than 322 million spectators worldwide. Since the Blue Angels often perform directly over major cities such as San Francisco and Seattle during maritime festivals such as as Seafair, they are often better known in many cities than other demonstration teams.

In their entire history, 23 pilots from the group have been killed in air show or training accidents with the most recent incident taking place in 1999 when a F/A-18 Hornet crashed in Georgia killing two pilots.

* 1946: The "Navy Flight Exhibition Team" is formed and takes the name Blue Angels.
* 1950: The team is ordered to Combat Duty Status in response to the Korean Conflict.
* 1951: LCDR Johnny Magda is the first Blue Angel killed in combat over Korea. The team is reactivated in October.
* 1952: Two aircraft collide during a demonstration in Corpus Christi, Texas; one pilot is killed, but the team resumes its performances two weeks thereafter.
* 1954: "Blues" pilot LCDR Hawkins becomes the first naval aviator to survive an ejection at supersonic speeds. The first Marine Corps pilot, Capt Chuck Hiett, joins the team.
* 1956: The team gives its first-ever performance outside the United States in Toronto, Canada.
* 1965: The Blue Angels are the only team to receive a standing ovation during the four-day Paris Air Show.
* 1968: LT Mary Russell becomes the first woman assigned to the "Blues."
* 1973: CDR Harley Hall (1970 team leader) is shot down over Vietnam, and is officially listed as Missing In Action.
* 1974: The team transitions to the McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II and is reorganized to add support officers and redefine the squadron’s mission, which emphasizes the support of recruiting efforts.
* 1986: The Blue Angels complete their 40th anniversary year in November and unveil their present aircraft, the sleek McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet.
* 1986: LCDR Donnie Cochran, is selected to join the Blue Angels. He is the first Black Naval Aviator to be selected.
* 1992: The Blue Angels become the first foreign flight demonstration team to perform in Russia. More than a million spectators witness the "Blues" performances during a month-long European tour.
* 1994 CDR Donnie Cochran assumes command of the Blue Angels.
* 1998: CDR Patrick Driscoll makes the first "Blue Jet" landing on a "haze gray and underway" aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).
* 2000: Show season attendance tops 15 million spectators.

Today is a very special and memorable day in your military career that will remain with you throughout your lifetime. You have survived the ultimate test of your peers and have proven to be completely deserving to wear the crest of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

The prestige of wearing the Blue Angels uniform carries with it an extraordinary honor — one that reflects not only on you as an individual, but on your teammates and the entire squadron. To the crowds at the air shows and to the public at hospitals and schools nationwide, you are a symbol of the Navy and Marine Corps' finest. You bring pride, hope and a promise for tomorrow's Navy and Marine Corps in the smiles and handshakes of today's youth. Remember today as the day you became a Blue Angel; look around at your teammates and commit this special bond to memory. "Once a Blue Angel, always a Blue Angel," rings true for all those who wear the crest of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Welcome to the team.

* Fat Albert (C-130) - JATO Takeoff
* Fat Albert - Flat Pass
* Fat Albert - Short-Field Assault Landing
* Engine Start-Up and Taxi Out
* Diamond Takeoff
* Solos Takeoff
* Diamond Pass in Review
* Opposing Knife-Edge Pass
* Diamond Roll
* Opposing Inverted to Inverted Rolls
* Simultaneous Aileron Rolls
* Fortus
* Diamond Dirty Loop
* Minimum Radius Turn
* Double Farvel
* Opposing Minimum Radius Turn
* Echelon Parade
* Opposing Horizontal Rolls
* Left Echelon Roll
* Sneak Pass: the fastest speed of the show is about 700 mph (just under Mach 1 at sea level)
* Line-Abreast Loop
* Opposing Four-Point Rolls
* Vertical Break
* Opposing Pitch Up
* Tuck Under Break
* Section High-Alpha Pass: (tail sitting) Slowest speed of show is 120 mph
* Barrel Roll Break
* Double Tuck Over Roll
* Delta Roll
* Fleur de Lis
* Solos Pass to Rejoin
* Downward Break
* Crossover
* Delta Pitch to Land


Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat June-August 1946

Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat August 1946-1949

Grumman F9F-2 Panther 1949-June 1950 (first jet)

Grumman F9F-5 Panther 1951-Winter 1954/55

Grumman F9F-8 Cougar Winter 1954/55-mid-season 1957 (swept-wing)

Grumman F11F-1 Tiger mid-season 1957-1969 (first supersonic jet)

McDonnell F-4J Phantom II 1969-December 1974

Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II December 1974-November 1986

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet November 1986-Present (Boeing since 1997)

* The "Blues" aircraft are completely combat-ready, and can be repainted and armed for combat service in just 72 hours.
* The Blue Angels was a short-lived dramatic television series inspired by the team's exploits and filmed with the cooperation of the Navy, that aired from September 1, 1960 to March 20, 1961.
* In 2005, the Discovery Channel aired a documentary miniseries, "Blue Angels: A Year in the Life", focusing on the intricate day-to-day details of that year's training and performance schedule.
* The video for the American rock band Van Halen's 1986 release "Dreams" is comprised of Blue Angels performance footage. The video was originally shot featuring the Blues in the McDonnell-Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. It was later reshot after the transition to the F/A-18 Hornet.
* The Blue Angels don't wear G-suits, because the air bladders inside them would repeatedly deflate and inflate. That would interfere with the control stick between a pilot's legs. Instead, Blue Angel pilots tense their stomach muscles and legs to prevent blood from rushing from their heads and rendering them unconscious.
* The squadron leader changes the cadence and inflection of his voice over the radio to instruct his fellow pilots to add/remove power and for general performance direction.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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