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Nearly A Month After Crash, Blue Angels Are Back

Almost a month after the fatal crash of their number-6 jet, the Blue
Angels are gearing up to restart their 2016 performance schedule.
Practice
resumed this week in the skies above NAS Pensacola in preparation for
the National Cherry Festival Air Show this weekend in Traverse City,
Michigan. Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, who files the Number-5 jet, calls it
“rebuilding the demo.”
“We started doing our very basic maneuvers
and worked up until we got up into the high show, our most dynamic
show,” said Chamberlain. “We completed all the maneuvers, and now we’re
just maintaining currency,”
The team was grounded and its 70th
anniversary year marred when Marine Corps Capt. Jeff Kuss was killed
June 2, when his F/A-18 Hornet crashed just after takeoff near
Nashville, Tennessee. The team left Wednesday for Traverse City, with
practice and other prep set for Thursday.
“We’re going to go up,
get ourselves settled in, and start with what we call our ‘Circle on
Arrival’ flight,” Chamberlain said. “Which is when get all of our local
checkpoints in the local area, and they we do a practice [then] hit the
ground running for the weekend.”
After Traverse City, the Blues
fly in Gary, Indiana the following weekend, and then over Pensacola
Beach July 16. Paolo Ghio is Executive Director of the Santa Rosa Island
Authority.
“We always just had Plan-A, and Plan-A was the air
show,” said Paolo Ghio, the Executive Director of the Santa Rosa Island
Authority. “If they had told us the Thursday prior to the dress
rehearsal show that they weren’t going to do it, we would have shut it
down.”
Ghio says look for a “spectacular show” from the Blue
Angels and a host of other civilian pilots in vintage aircraft. Among
those breathing a huge sigh of relief are the Pensacola-area business
which benefit from the annual event.
The Blue Angels’ Number-6
Hornet has not been replaced at this point. The team will fly with five
aircraft in the formation for the time being. Lt. Ryan Chamberlain says
two obstacles in getting the 6th Blue Angel into the air involves the
logistics and time frame involved with bringing in a former Blue Angel
and getting them back up to speed.
“It’s going to take about 2-3
weeks to get the person here, and probably another 2-3 [weeks], maybe
even a month, to get the person up to speed where they can safely fly in
the demonstration.”
The Blue Angel who pilots the Number-7 jet –
who serves his first season as the program narrator – appears to be the
most logical choice. But Chamberlain says there’s another, larger time
frame involved there.
“While he flies next to us, he doesn’t fly
in the demonstration,” said Chamberlain. “So, when he gets trained up in
winter training, it takes a minimum of 120 flights for him to be ready
to go in the demonstration. One hundred-20 flights is probably a
three-month time frame that right now we just don’t have.”
The
investigation into the crash continues by the Navy and a number of
civilian agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration. Given
the history of investigations into aviation accidents, the final report
likely will not be out until sometime in 2017.

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