The Blue Angels have flown over 10 different aircraft in the team’s 65 year history. Originally, the team flew four aircraft in the signature “Diamond” formation and expanded to six aircraft to showcase both the diamond and solos high performance capability as well as the precision formation flying taught to all Naval Aviators. Today, the squadron flies the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. When the squadron receives a F/A-18 Hornet from the fleet, which are at the end of their carrier arrestment functionality, we make a variety of modifications, including removing the nose cannon to install a smoke-fluid system, inverting a fuel pump, installing a stop watch and adjustable constant-tension stick spring, as well as the world-wide recognizable paint scheme.
The first Jet-Assisted Take-Off (JATO) performance by the Blue Angels’ C-130, affectionately known as “Fat Albert”, took place at NAS Pensacola, FL in November of 1975. Eight solid fuel JATO rocket bottles, each producing 1,000 pounds of thrust, helped propel Fat Albert skyward and captivated millions of spectators each year. These JATO bottles were produced in the Vietnam era to help aircraft take off from short, unimproved runways at heavy weights. The last known stockpile of JATO bottles were expended during the Blue Angels’ 2009 show season and ended with the last JATO performance for Fat Albert at the NAS Pensacola, FL Air Show in November of 2009.