Blue Angels

Donna Adamski

Joined August 2008

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Nikon FG-20
35mm

Placed in the Top Ten in the Name that Year in the Mid March March Madness challenge in Bubble Jeopardy
The United States Navy’s Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, popularly known as the Blue Angels, first performed in 1946 and was the world’s first officially sanctioned military aerial demonstration team. The squadron’s six demonstration pilots fly the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet in more than 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the United States each year, where they still employ many of the same practices and techniques used in their aerial displays in 1946. Since their inception, the “Blues” have flown a variety of different aircraft types for more than 427 million spectators worldwide.

Mission
The mission of the Blue Angels is to enhance Navy recruiting, and credibly represent Navy and Marine Corps aviation to the United States and its Armed Forces to America and other countries as international ambassadors of good will.

Squadron nickname, insignia and paint scheme
When initially formed, the unit was called the Navy Flight Exhibition Team. The squadron was officially redesignated as the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron in December 1974. The original team adopted the nickname Blue Angels in 1946, when one of them came across the name of New York City’s Blue Angel nightclub in the New Yorker Magazine. The team introduced themselves as the “Blue Angels” to the public for the first time on July 21 1946 in Omaha, Nebraska.

The official Blue Angels insignia was designed by then team leader Lt. Cmdr. R.E. “Dusty” Rhodes and approved by CNO in 1949. It is nearly identical to the current design. In the cloud in the upper right quadrant, the aircraft were originally shown heading down and to the right. Over the years, the plane silhouettes have changed along with the squadron’s aircraft. Additionally, the lower left quadrant, which contains the Chief of Naval Air Training insignia, has occasionally contained only Naval Aviator wings.

Originally, demonstration aircraft were navy blue (nearly black) with gold lettering. The current shades of blue and yellow were adopted when the team transitioned to the Bearcat in 1946. For a single year in 1949, the team performed in a blinding all-yellow scheme with blue markings). The current paint scheme, including yellow stripe markings along the top of the fuselage, and “U.S. Navy” on the bottom of the wings, was designed by team member Robert L. Rasmussen in 1957.

Current aircraft
The “Blues” FA-18 aircraft are former fleet aircraft that are nearly combat-ready. They can be repainted and readied 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. The Blue Angels do not 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 show narrator flies Blue Angel 7—a two-seat FA-18B—to shows sites. The Blue Angels use this jet for backup, and to give demonstration flights to civilians (usually members of the press). The #4 slot pilot often flies the #7 aircraft in Friday “practice” shows.

The Blue Angels use a United States Marine Corps C-130T Hercules nicknamed “Fat Albert” for logistics, carrying spare parts, equipment, and to carry support personnel between shows. They also use “Bert” for a short aerial demonstration just prior to the jet demonstration at selected venues. “Fat Albert Airlines” flies with an all-Marine crew of three officers and five enlisted personnel.

Team members
All team members, both officer and enlisted, come from the ranks of regular Navy and United States Marine Corps units. The demonstration pilots and narrator are made up of Navy and USMC Naval Aviators. Pilots typically serve two years, and position assignments are made according to team needs, pilot experience levels, and career considerations for members. The team leader (#1) is the Commanding Officer and is always a Navy Commander or Captain. Pilots of numbers 2-7 are Navy Lieutenants or Lieutenant Commanders. There is usually one Marine among this group, a Captain/Major. The number 7 pilot narrates for a year, and then typically flies Opposing and then Lead Solo the following two years. It is not uncommon for the number 3 pilot to move to the number 4 (slot) position for his second year. 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. There are a number of other officers in the squadron, including a Naval Flight Officer, the USMC C-130 pilots, a Maintenance Officer, an Administrative Officer, and a Flight Surgeon. Enlisted members range from E-4 to E-9, and perform all maintenance, administrative, and support functions. After serving with the “Blues”, members return to fleet assignments.



Artwork Comments

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