The United States Navy's Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, popularly known as the Blue Angels, was formed in 1946 and is the world's first officially sanctioned military aerial demonstration team, as well as the oldest currently flying aerobatics team. Contents
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. Within the Delta Formation (aircraft 1-6), there are both Navy and Marine pilots. There is no preset position for Marine representatives. Position assignments, including the #7/Narrator job, are made according to team needs, pilot experience levels, and career considerations for members. Blue Angel #4 serves as the demonstration safety officer, due largely to the perspective he is afforded from the slot position within the formation, as well as his status as a second-year demonstration pilot.
The Opposing Solos usually perform maneuvers just under the speed of sound which showcase the capabilities of their individual F/A-18 Hornets 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's 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 (2,400 m) ceiling and visibility of 3 nautical miles (6 km) from the show's centerpoint. "Low" and "flat" ceilings are 3,500 and 1,500 feet (460 m) respectively.
 History The first Blue Angel Flight Demonstration Squadron, 19461947 assembled in front of one of their F6F Hellcats (l to r): Lt. Al Taddeo, Solo; Lt. (J.G.) Gale Stouse, Spare; Lt. Cdr. R.M. "Butch" Voris, Flight Leader; Lt. Maurice "Wick" Wickendoll, Right Wing; Lt. Mel Cassidy, Left Wing. The first Blue Angel Flight Demonstration Squadron, 19461947 assembled in front of one of their F6F Hellcats (l to r): Lt. Al Taddeo, Solo; Lt. (J.G.) Gale Stouse, Spare; Lt. Cdr. R.M. "Butch" Voris, Flight Leader; Lt. Maurice "Wick" Wickendoll, Right Wing; Lt. Mel Cassidy, Left Wing.
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 Craig Field, Florida. 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 at NAS Pensacola. On August 25, 1946 the Blue Angels switched to the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat and introduced the famous "diamond" formation at the World Air Carnival in Birmingham, Alabama. On August 25, 1946 the Blue Angels switched to the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat and introduced the famous "diamond" formation at the World Air Carnival in Birmingham, Alabama.
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 (including one year, 1949, in a blinding all-yellow scheme with blue markings) 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 team (he was the first of only two commanding officers to lead them twice). By the end of the 1940s, the Blue Angels were flying their first jets, the Grumman F9F-2 Panther, but soon would be utilizing the improved F9F-5. The Angels remained in Corpus Christi until the winter of 1954, when they relocated to their present home at NAS Pensacola. It was here 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. All six Blue Angel A-4F Skyhawks fly in delta formation, smoke on. All six Blue Angel A-4F Skyhawks fly in delta formation, smoke on.
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, the last of which is not duplicated by the Thunderbirds. The Blue Angels also operate a Marine Corps C-130T Hercules nicknamed "Fat Albert" due to its shape resembling the cartoon character. Fat Albert provides support and at selected venues puts 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 locations throughout the United States each year, where they still employ many of the same practices and techniques in their aerial displays as in 1946. Since their inception, the "Blues" have flown for more than 427 million spectators worldwide. The Blue Angels often perform directly over major cities such as San Francisco and Seattle during "Fleet Week" maritime festivals, such as Seafair.
 Timeline F6F-5 Hellcats in 1946 F6F-5 Hellcats in 1946 The "Blues" support crew watches the team perform in the Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighter. The "Blues" support crew watches the team perform in the Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet fighter. F9F-8 Cougar formation in 1956 F9F-8 Cougar formation in 1956 Grumman F11F-1 Tiger, 1957-69 Grumman F11F-1 Tiger, 1957-69 McDonnell F-4J Phantom IIs McDonnell F-4J Phantom IIs
* 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. * 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. Team is rebased at NAS Pensacola in the winter of 1954. * 1956: The team gives its first performance outside the United States in Toronto, Canada. * 1957: Blue Angels go supersonic with the conversion from F9F to F11F * 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." * 1969: The team transitions to the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II aircraft. * 1974: The team transitions to the McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II and is reorganized to add support officers and redefine the squadrons 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 African-American 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. * 2006: Blue Angels mark 60 years in history in performing since 1946. * 2007: The Blue Angels have been been flying the F/A-18 Hornet in flight demonstrations for 20 years.
 Routines The solos make a "knife-edge" pass. The far aircraft is actually slightly higher than the near aircraft to make them appear in-line to the audience. The solos make a "knife-edge" pass. The far aircraft is actually slightly higher than the near aircraft to make them appear in-line to the audience. Blue Angels aircraft perform the "Section High Alpha", the slowest manuever of their show. During the maneuver the two jets slow down to 125 knots (232 km/h) as they pitch the nose of the F/A-18 up to 45 degrees. Blue Angels aircraft perform the "Section High Alpha", the slowest manuever of their show. During the maneuver the two jets slow down to 125 knots (232 km/h) as they pitch the nose of the F/A-18 up to 45 degrees. Blue Angel number seven roars past during the Fleet Week 2007 air show over the San Francisco Bay. Blue Angel number seven roars past during the Fleet Week 2007 air show over the San Francisco Bay. Blue Angels on Delta Formation. Blue Angels on Delta Formation.
* Fat Albert (C-130) - JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) * Fat Albert - Flat Pass * Fat Albert - Head on Pass * Fat Albert - Short-Field Assault Landing * Engine Start-Up and Taxi Out * Diamond Take-off (Either a low transition, a loop on takeoff, a half-Cuban 8 takeoff, or a Half Squirrel Cage) * Solos Take-off (Blue Angel #5: Dirty Roll on Take-Off; Blue Angel #6: Low Transition, Split S on Take-Off) * Diamond 360: Aircraft 1, 2, 3 and 4 are in their signature 18" wingtip-to-canopy diamond formation. (Called the Diamond 360 by the Blue Angels themselves, not the Pass in Review which is a Thunderbird maneuver) * Opposing Knife-Edge Pass * Diamond Roll * Opposing Inverted to Inverted Rolls * Diamond Aileron Roll * Fortus * Diamond Dirty Loop * Minimum Radius Turn * Double Farvel: Diamond formation with aircraft 1 and 4 inverted. * Opposing Minimum Radius Turn * Echelon Parade * Opposing Horizontal Rolls * Left Echelon Roll: The roll is made into the Echelon which is difficult and dangerous. * Sneak Pass: the fastest speed of the show is about 700 mph (just under Mach 1 at sea level) Video * Line-Abreast Loop * Opposing Four-Point Hesitation Roll * Vertical Break * Opposing Pitch Up * Barrel Roll Break * Section High-Alpha Pass: (tail sitting), the show's slowest maneuver * Low Break Cross * Inverted Tuck Over Roll * Tuck Under Break * Delta Roll * Fleur de Lis * Solos Pass to Rejoin * Loop Break Cross (Delta Break): After the break the aircraft separate in six different directions, perform half Cuban eights then cross in the center of the performance area. * Delta Breakout * Delta Pitch Up Break to Land
* Note, the maneuver sequence has changed in 2008 from what it was in 2007.
Source: Videos of these maneuvers
During its history 26 Blue Angels pilots have been killed in air show or training accidents. Through the 2006 season there have been 262 pilots and squad leaders in the squad's history, giving the job a 10% fatality rate.
 Air show
* 1946 - September: Lt. "Robby" Robinson was killed while performing a Cuban Eight maneuver during an airshow when a wingtip broke off his Bearcat sending him into an unrecoverable spin. * 1952 - Two aircraft collide during a demonstration in Corpus Christi, Texas; one pilot is killed, but the team resumes its performances two weeks later. * September 2, 1966 - Lt. Cmdr. Dick Oliver crashed and was killed at the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto. * July 26, 1973 - 3 pilots/crew chiefs are killed in a mid-air collision over Lakehurst, NJ between 2 Phantoms during practice/arrival. Team Leader LCDR Skip Umstead, Capt. Mike Murphy and ADJ1 Ron Thomas perish during an arrival practice. The rest of the season was cancelled after this incident, the third during the season. * May 31, 1980 - Lead Solo Lt. Jim Ross is unhurt when his aircraft suffers a fuel line fire during a show at Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico. The plane landed in a swamp near the air base. * July 13, 1985 - Aircraft 5 and 6 (Lead and Opposing Solo) (A-4F) collide at Niagara Falls, killing opposing solo Lt. Cmdr. Mike Gershon. Lt. Andy Caputi ejects and parachutes to safety. * April 21, 2007 - Aircraft 6 during an in flight rendezvous following the Delta Loop Break cross maneuver, crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, South Carolina killing its pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Kevin J. Davis of Pittsfield, Mass. (See 2007 Blue Angels South Carolina crash)
 Other incidents
* 1951 - LCDR Johnny Magda is the first Blue Angel killed in combat over Korea. The team is reactivated in October at NAS Corpus Christi. * February 1, 1967 -- Lt Frank Gallagher dies when his F-9 stalls during a practice flight on a 1/2 Cuban 8 maneuver at low altitude and spun into the ground.
* February 18, 1967 - Capt. Ronald Thompson dies during a formation loop mid- air during practice.
* January 14, 1968 - Opposing solo Lt. Bill Worley dies when his plane crashes during a double immelman in a practice flight.
* June 4, 1971 -- CDR Harley Hall ejects after his F-4J caught fire during practice and crashed over Narragansett Bay near the ex-NAS Quonset Point in Rhode Island. * January 8, 1972 -- Lt. Larry Watters dies when his plane strikes the ground while flying inverted.
* January 27, 1973 - CDR Harley Hall (1970 team leader) is shot down over Vietnam, and is officially listed as Missing In Action. * March 8, 1973 -- Capt. John Fogg, Lt. Marlin Wiita and LCDR Don Bentley survived a multi-aircraft mid-air during practice over the Superstition Mountains in California.SA * February 22, 1976 -- Opposing solo Lt. Nile Kraft died when his A-4 flew into the ground during practice. * November 8, 1978 - One of the solo aircraft failed to recover after low roll during a practice session at NAS Miramar. Navy Lieutenant Michael Curtain was killed. * February 22, 1982 - Lt. Cmdr Stu Powrie, 34, Blue Angels Lead Solo (#5) is killed in a training crash of his A-4F Skyhawk at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, during Blue Angels Winter training. He had just completed a dirty loop when his aircraft crashed. * February 12, 1987 -- Lead solo Lt. Dave Anderson survives when his engine fails during practice. * January 23, 1990 - Mid-air collision between two Blue Angels aircraft during a practice session at El Centro. Marine Corps Maj. Charles "Chase" Moseley was faulted for the collision with team leader Cmdr. Pat Moneymaker. One airplane was destroyed and the other badly damaged. Both pilots survived unharmed. * October 28, 1999 - Lt. Cmdr. Kieron O'Connor and recently selected demonstration pilot Lt. Kevin Colling crash while practicing showsite orientation (circle and arrival) maneuvers in Valdosta, Georgia. Neither survived. * December 2, 2004 - Pilot Lt. Ted Steelman ejects from his Blue Angels F/A-18 approximately one mile off Perdido Key after reporting mechanical problems and loss of power; he suffered minor injuries and fully recovered.
 Miscellaneous Water condensation in the strake vortices of a Hornet during a tight maneuver. Water condensation in the strake vortices of a Hornet during a tight maneuver.
* The "Blues" aircraft are nearly combat-ready, and can be repainted and armed for combat service in just 72 hours. Significant modifications to each aircraft include removal of the aircraft gun and replacement with the tank that contains the paraffin-based smoked oil used in demonstrations, installation of inverted fuel pumps to increase the time aircraft can spend inverted without fuel starvation, and outfitting with the control stick spring system that is used to facilitate more precise aircraft control inputs. The standard demonstration configuration is such that the pilot must overcome 40 pounds of nose-down stick input to maintain level flight. Pilot finalists are tested physically to ensure they are capable of this, and spring settings are incrementally increased during winter training in El Centro, CA. * 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. * The Blue Angels were the subject of "Flying Blue Angels," a pop song recorded by George, Johnny and the Pilots (Coed Co 555), that debuted on Billboard Magazine's "Bubbling Under the Hot 100" chart on September 11, 1961. * The Blue Angels' crest changes with every new aircraft type they acquire. When they flew A-4s, in the upper right corner, was an outline of the A-4s in formation. Since then, the crest has been modified with the F/A-18's outline. * 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" consists of Blue Angels performance footage. The video was originally shot featuring the Blues in the A-4 Skyhawk. It was later reshot after the transition to the F/A-18 Hornet. * The Blue Angels appeared on an episode of Tim Allen Television Sitcom Home Improvement as themselves * 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 Blue Angels Creed, written by JO1 Cathy Konn, 1991-1993:
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.
 Notable alumni John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John with Blue Angels, 1982 John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John with Blue Angels, 1982
* Captain Chuck Brady Astronaut * Captain Donnie Cochran first African-American Blue Angels aviator * Captain Robert L. Rasmussen Aviation Artist * Commander Raleigh Rhodes World War II veteran and third leader of the Blue Angels * Captain Roy Marlin Voris First Blue Angel leader * Admiral Patrick M. Walsh Left Wingman and Slot Pilot, 1985-1987; Vice Chief of Naval Operations
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