US Navy aviation demonstration squadron known as the "Super Angels"

US Navy F/A-18 Hornet demonstration squadron
US Navy F/A-18 Hornet demonstration squadron

The United States Navy has a display squadron known as the Blue Angels. This group is the world's second-oldest official aerobatics team, having formed in 1946. Five Navy and one Marine Corps demonstration pilots fly Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets as part of this squadron.

From March till November, the squadron performs air shows for an estimated 11 million viewers. More than 50,000 people have been reached through the Blue Angels' appearances at schools, hospitals, and community activities.

The budget for the program was $2.8 million lower in November 2011 than it had been the previous year.
The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron's primary goal is to demonstrate the high quality of service provided by the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The mission of the squadron is to promote a spirit of excellence and patriotism via air shows and other forms of public service.

After the Red Barons, the Blue Angels are the oldest active aerobatic team in the world

The "Blues" play regularly in major U.S. cities and capitals, as well as at military and civilian airfields. The Air Canada International Airshow calendar includes features Canadian air shows.

They may be seen performing formation loops, rolls, and switching between formations. Speeds as low as 126 mph and as high as 700 mph (just under Mach 1) have been recorded during air shows (110 knots).
Three separate types of shows—high, low, and flat—are put on in high, low, and flat temperatures, respectively. Each performance requires adjustments to its settings in order to account for the specifics of its location and time of performance. The high show needs a ceiling of at least 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) and visibility of at least 3 nautical miles (6 kilometers) from the center point of the show.
As of 2020, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet had been flown by the team for a total of 34 years. The Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet is the current aircraft flown by the team.

Boeing was awarded a contract in August 2018 to modify eleven F/A-18E Super Hornets for the Blue Angels, including ten with single seats and two with tandem seating. The guns have been removed and replaced with a tank of smoke oil for use in protests. Starting about the middle of the year 2020, test flights were conducted in the newly converted aircraft as they became available. In 2021, the Super Hornets' 75th anniversary year, the squad officially launched. 

Both the F/A-18F Hornet and the C-130J Super Hercules are flown by the Blue Angels

The F/A-18F Hornet flown by the Blue Angels is a two-seater. The Blues utilize these planes as backups and for showing off in front of civilian VIPs. At most air shows, you can take a trip in the pilot's seat twice.

While traveling from one air show to the next, the Blue Angels rely on "Fat Albert," a United States Marine Corps Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules, for all of their logistical needs.

In the ten years since the Blue Angels' founding, 272 pilots have participated in their display team.

All of the team's pilots and support officers come straight from active duty in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Positions are assigned to pilots at the beginning of their two- to three-year terms based on team needs, pilot experience levels, and individual career goals. All administrative, maintenance, and support tasks are handled by E-4 to E-9 enlisted personnel. Their time in the squadron typically lasts between three and four years.

Demonstration pilots for the Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 and C-130 must have a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet hours and be carrier-qualified. Pilots and support officers (flight surgeon, events coordinator, maintenance officer, supply officer, and public affairs officer) must submit formal applications through their respective chains of command in order to be considered for officer positions.

In the Blue Angels, flight surgeons have a two-year commitment. Interested parties "rush" the team at one or more airshows, for which they pay out of pocket. Fitting new officers into the established structure and dynamism of the force is essential. The next year's officers are chosen by a secret ballot among the team members. There have been both women and people of color serving as staff officers in the Blue Angels.
Twelve practice flights are flown by the pilots every day, six days a week, to ensure a faultless and secure performance.

During a tour of duty, the Flight Leader (No. 1) serves as the CO and may be promoted to Captain provided he or she meets the requirements set forth by the promotion board. There are lieutenant commanders and lieutenants in the Navy and majors and captains in the Marine Corps serving as the pilots for planes 2 through 7. Due in large part to their vantage point from a slot position within the formation, Blue Angel No. 4 acts as the demonstration safety officer.

It is in El Centro, California, at the Naval Air Facility (NAFC) that the Blue Angels do their winter training. Twelve practice flights a day, six days a week, are flown by the pilots in order to ensure a smooth and safe demonstration. On Friday, the crew will do a "practice" airshow at the actual show location.

To minimize the potentially fatal pooling of blood in the lower limbs, Blue Angel pilots have developed a means of tensing their muscles. G-suits are not worn by pilots because the constant inflation and deflation of the air bladders within creates instability.

In 1952, the Blue Angels began donning distinctive flight uniforms emblazoned with the team's name and logo. In 1953, the first performance of the season saw them don gold flight suits. The flight demonstration squadron's outfits were designed to honor significant moments in aviation history.

After a reorganization of US Navy display squadrons in 1971, the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron was established. On December 10, 1973, after being restructured and recommissioned, the squadron took its maiden flight out of Pensacola International Airport in Florida.

US Navy F/A-18 Hornet demonstration squadron
US Navy F/A-18 Hornet demonstration squadron

On April 24, 1946, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, issued an order establishing the Blue Angels. Their true goal was to win over voters and politicians so that more of the ever-shrinking defense budget could be allocated to the military. The original crew included some of the Navy's most accomplished aviators.
In July of 1946, at the height of World War II, the Navy Flight Exhibition Team, better known as the Blue Angels, was established. The team's first trophy, won at their first public performance, is on display at NAS Pensacola. Hellcats made ten appearances before being replaced by the F8F-1 Bearcats, a team that was faster, lighter, and had greater firepower.

When four F8F-1 Bearcats flew in a diamond formation for the first time in June 1946, they became the first Blue Angels. In air displays, an SNJ posed as a Japanese Zero for the Bearcats to fight.
The Blue Angels' 1968 aircraft were modified Lockheed C-54 Skymasters. In that same year, their supply plane was upgraded to a Lockheed C-121 Super Constellation. In 1969, the Blues made the switch to McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II fighter jets. In addition to the "Blues," the United States Air Force Thunderbirds also flew the Phantom.
With an all-Marine crew, the Blues got their first Lockheed KC-130F Hercules in 1970. When they first toured South America, it was that year.

US Navy F/A-18 Hornet demonstration squadron
US Navy F/A-18 Hornet demonstration squadron

The inaugural Far East Tour was performed by the squad in 1971, when they debuted in gold flying suits. They gave performances throughout Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Guam, and the Philippines at a dozen different venues. 

As part of their 1971–1972 European tour, the US Navy's Blue Angels performed air shows in Iran, France, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. For the two years (1 March 1970 - 31 December 1971), they were recognized with the Navy's Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Formerly known as the Navy Flight Exhibition Team, the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron was officially commissioned on December 10, 1973. Originally, the mission's focus was on boosting Navy enrollment.

When flying at a steep angle of attack, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet may "tail sit" comfortably.

The squadron's first "commanding officer" and "flight leader" was Navy Commander Anthony Less, who assumed those roles in 1973. The Blue Angels began flying the brand-new Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II in 1974. The crew has expanded to include an administrative officer and a flight surgeon.

US Navy F/A-18 Hornet demonstration squadron
US Navy F/A-18 Hornet demonstration squadron

The crew of "Fat Albert Airlines" consists entirely of Marines, with three officers and five enlisted men and women at the helm. Prior to the main event at select locales, "Bert" was put to service for Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) demonstrations beginning in 1975. In 2009, when rocket supplies ran out, JATO demonstrations stopped. 

LCDR Donnie Cochran became the first African American Naval Aviator to be appointed to the Blue Angels in 1986. He remained a member of the unit for another two years, flying as the left wingman for the third A-4F jet. In 1995 and 1996, Cochran led the Blue Angles again.

The Blue Angels' 40th anniversary year culminated in celebrations on November 8, 1986, when they unveiled the planes that will carry them into their 75th anniversary. The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is capable of a leisurely "tail sitting" maneuver at a high angle of attack because of the plane's power and aerodynamics.

The United States Navy Blue Angels are a representation of the greatest in the Marine Corps and Navy. A Blue Angels outfit is a symbol of great pride and honor. You provide today's youth a sense of pride, optimism, and potential. If you wear the Blue Angel crest, you will always be a Blue Angel.

The Blue Angels were the first American flying demonstration team to tour Europe and the Middle East, performing for audiences there in 1992. They gave concerts in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, the UK, and Spain, among other places.

In 1998, CDR Patrick Driscoll landed the first "Blue Jet" on the USS Harry S. Truman while it was "haze gray and underway" (CVN-75).

The Blue Angels tragically lost two pilots on October 8, 1999. LT Kevin Colling and LCDR Kieron O'Connor were returning from a practice flight before an air show when their F/A-18B crashed in a wooded area of south Georgia.

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