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On 24 April 1946 Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Chester Nimitz issued a directive ordering the formation of a flight exhibition team 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 team, naming him Officer-in-Charge and Flight Leader. Voris selected three fellow instructors to join him (Lt. Maurice “Wick” Wickendoll, Lt. Mel Cassidy, and Lt. Cmdr. Lloyd Barnard, veterans of the War in the Pacific), and they 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 10 May 1946 and was met with enthusiastic approval.

F6F-5_Blue_Angels_NAN10_46

F6F-5_Blue_Angels_NAN10_46

On 15 June 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 their Florida home base, Naval Air Station Jacksonville. The team employed a North American SNJ Texan, painted and configured to simulate a Japanese Zero, to simulate aerial combat. This aircraft was later painted yellow and dubbed the “Beetle Bomb”. This aircraft is said to have been inspired by one of the Spike JonesMurdering the Classics series of musical satires, set to the tune (in part) of the William Tell Overture as a thoroughbred horse race scene, with “Beetle Bomb” being the “trailing horse” in the lyrics.

The 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.

Grumman F8F Bearcats in "diamond" formation in 1947.

Grumman F8F Bearcats in “diamond” formation in 1947.

On 25 August 1946 the squadron upgraded their aircraft to the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat. In May 1947, flight leader Lt. Cmdr. Bob Clarke replaced Butch Voris as the leader of the team and introduced the famous Diamond Formation, now considered the Blue Angels’ trademark.

In 1949, the team acquired a Douglas R4D Skytrain for logistics to and from show sites. The team’s SNJ was also replaced by a F8F-1 “Bearcat”, painted yellow for the air combat routine, inheriting the “Beetle Bomb” nickname. The Blues transitioned to the straight-wing Grumman Grumman F9F-2 Panther on 13 July 1949, wherein the F8F-1 “Beetle Bomb” was relegated to solo aerobatics before the main show, until it crashed on takeoff at a training show in Pensacola in 1950.

Team headquarters shifted from NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, to NAAS Whiting Field, Florida, in the fall of 1949, announced 14 July 1949.

1950s

The “Blues” continued to perform nationwide until the start of the Korean War in 1950, when (due to a shortage of pilots, and no planes were available) 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.

Grumman F9F-8 Cougar formation in 1956

Grumman F9F-8 Cougar formation in 1956

The Blue Angels were officially recommissioned on 25 October 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). In 1953 the team traded its Sky Train for a Curtiss R5C Commando.

In August 1953, “Blues” leader LCDR Ray Hawkins became the first naval aviator to survive an ejection at supersonic speeds when his F9F-6 became uncontrollable on a cross-country flight.

The first Marine Corps pilot, Capt Chuck Hiett, joined the team and they relocated to their current home of NAS Pensacola in the winter of 1954. It was here they progressed to the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 Cougar.

In September 1956, the team added a sixth aircraft to the flight demonstration in the Opposing Solo position, and

Grumman F11F-1 Tiger, 1957–69

Grumman F11F-1 Tiger, 1957–69

gave its first performance outside the United States at the International Air Exposition in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It also upgraded its logistics aircraft to the Douglas R5D Skymaster.

In January 1957, the team left its winter training facility at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California for a ten-year period. For the next ten years, the team would winter at NAS Key West, Florida. For the 1957 show season, the Blue Angels transitioned to the supersonic Grumman F11F-1 Tiger, first flying the short-nosed, and then the long-nosed versions. The first Six-Plane Delta Maneuvers were added in the 1958 season.

1960s

In July 1964, the Blue Angels participated in the Aeronaves de Mexico Anniversary Air Show over Mexico City, Mexico, before an estimated crowd of 1.5 million people.

In 1965, the Blue Angels conducted a Caribbean island tour, flying at five sites. Later that year, they embarked on a European tour to a dozen sites, including the Paris Air Show, where they were the only team to receive a standing ovation.

The Blues toured Europe again in 1967 touring six sites. In 1968 the C-54 Skymaster transport aircraft was replaced with a Lockheed VC-121J Constellation. The Blues transitioned to the two-seat McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II in 1969, nearly always keeping the back seat empty for flight demonstrations. The Phantom was the only plane to be flown by both the “Blues” and the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. That year they also upgraded to the Lockheed C-121 Super Constellation for logistics.

1970s

The Blues received their first U.S. Marine Corps Lockheed KC-130F Hercules in 1970. An all-Marine crew manned it. That year, they went on their first South American tour. In 1971, the team conducted its first Far East Tour, performing at a dozen locations in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Guam, and the Philippines. In 1972, the Blue Angels were awarded the Navy’s Meritorious Unit Commendation for the two-year period from 1 March 1970 – 31 December

 All six Blue Angel Douglas A-4F Skyhawks executing a "fleur de lis" maneuver.

All six Blue Angel Douglas A-4F Skyhawks executing a “fleur de lis” maneuver.

1971. Another European tour followed in 1973, including air shows in Tehran, Iran, England, France, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

n December 1974 the Navy Flight Demonstration Team downsized to the subsonic Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II and was reorganized into the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. This reorganization permitted the establishment of a commanding officer (the flight leader), added

Members from the Imperial Iranian Air Force Golden Crown and the Blue Angels during the joint airshow; Kushke Nosrat Airbase, 1973

Members from the Imperial Iranian Air Force Golden Crown and the Blue Angels during the joint airshow; Kushke Nosrat Airbase, 1973

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.

1980s

On 8 November 1986 the Blue Angels completed their 40th anniversary year during ceremonies unveiling their present aircraft, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, the first multi-role fighter/attack aircraft. The power and aerodynamics of the Hornet allows them to perform a slow, high angle of attack “tail sitting” maneuver, and to fly a “dirty” (landing gear down) formation loop, the last of which is not duplicated by the USAF Thunderbirds.

Also in 1986, LCDR Donnie Cochran, joined the Blue Angels as the first African-American Naval Aviator to be selected. He would return to lead the team in 1993.

1990s

In 1992 the Blue Angels deployed for a month-long European tour, their first in 19 years, conducting shows in Sweden, Finland, Russia (first foreign flight demonstration team to perform there), Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain.

In 1998, CDR Patrick Driscoll made the first “Blue Jet” landing on a “haze gray and underway” aircraft carrier, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).

2000s

In 2006, the Blue Angels marked their 60th year of performing. On 30 October 2008 a spokesman for the team announced that the team would complete its last three performances of the year with five jets instead of six. The change was because one pilot and another officer in the organization had been removed from duty for engaging in an “inappropriate relationship”. The Navy stated that one of the individuals was a man and the other a woman, one a Marine and the other from the Navy, and that Rear Admiral Mark Guadagnini, chief of Naval air training, was reviewing the situation. At the next performance at Lackland Air Force Base following the announcement the No. 4 or slot pilot, was absent from the formation. A spokesman for the team would not confirm the identity of the pilot removed from the team. On 6 November 2008 both officers were found guilty at an admiral’s mast on unspecified charges but the resulting punishment was not disclosed.  The names of the two members involved were later released on the Pensacola News Journal website/forum as pilot No. 4 USMC Maj. Clint Harris and the administrative officer, Navy Lt. Gretchen Doane.

The Fat Albert performed its final JATO demonstration at the 2009 Pensacola Homecoming show, expending their 8 remaining JATO bottles. This demonstration not only was the last JATO performance of the squadron, but also the final JATO use of the U.S. Marine Corps.

2010s

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets performing in San Francisco

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets performing in San Francisco

On 22 May 2011, the Blue Angels were performing at the Lynchburg Regional Airshow in Lynchburg, Virginia, when the Diamond formation flew the Barrel Roll Break maneuver at an altitude that was lower than the required minimum altitude. The maneuver was aborted, the remainder of the demonstration canceled and all aircraft landed safely. The next day, the Blue Angels announced that they were initiating a safety stand-down, canceling their upcoming Naval Academy Airshow and returning to their home base in Pensacola, Florida, for additional training and airshow practice. On 26 May, the Blue Angels announced they would not be flying their traditional fly-over of the Naval Academy Graduation Ceremony and that they were canceling their 28–29 May 2011 performances at the Millville Wings and Wheels Airshow in Millville, New Jersey.

On 27 May 2011, the Blue Angels announced that Commander Dave Koss, the squadron’s Commanding Officer, would be stepping down. He was replaced by Captain Greg McWherter, the team’s previous Commanding Officer. The squadron canceled performances at the Rockford, Illinois Airfest 4–5 June and the Evansville, Indiana Freedom Festival Air Show 11–12 June to allow additional practice and demonstration training under McWherter’s leadership.

Between 2 and 4 September 2011 on Labor Day weekend, the Blue Angels flew for the first time with a 50–50 blend of conventional JP-5 jet fuel and a camelina-based biofuel at Naval Air Station Patuxent River airshow at Patuxent River, Maryland. McWherter flew an F/A-18 test flight on 17 August and stated there were no noticeable differences in performance from inside the cockpit.

On 9 April 2013, the U.S. Navy released a statement that it was cancelling all remaining 2013 performances due to budget constraints, which ends the 2013 Blue Angels season after 2 of 35 scheduled shows were performed. The Navy also stated it continues to believe the value of inspiring future generations, and that the 2014 Blue Angels Schedule has not been subject to any cancellations, the schedule itself was released in September 2013.

In June 2014, Captain Greg McWherter, flight leader of the Blue Angels for 2008-2010 and 2011-2012, received letter of reprimand from Adm. Harry Harris after an admiral’s mast for “failing to stop obvious and repeated instances of sexual harassment, condoning widespread lewd practices within the squadron and engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional discussions with his junior officers” during his second tour with the team.

In July 2014, Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins, 27, became the first female pilot to join the Blue Angels.

All from – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Angels

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