Following the death of a pilot in his first year doing demonstration flights, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels suspended their air show season schedule for the coming weeks, the Navy Times reports.
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jeff Kuss, 32, of Durango, Colorado, was
killed in an F/A-18C crash during an air show practice run Thursday at
the Smyrna, Tennessee, Airport.
Officially the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels had previously announced a performance Aug. 26-28 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Organizers had yet to work out all the details at the time of the announcement in March.
“We’re still trying to work through it and we’re not in a position to announce that we are hosting” the show, Pocono Raceway spokesman Ryan Yanoshak said Friday.
The track was preparing Friday for its NASCAR Xfinity Series debut this weekend, with the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 and associated activities.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, a Navy representative said
that going forward the Blue Angels would harness the spirit of
compassion, courage and resiliency that Kuss embodied.
“We lost an aviator that believed so deeply in the Blue Angels’
mission of inspiring others and representing the Navy and our Marine
Corps, our citizens and our country,” read a statement shared during the
The statement described Kuss as a husband, father, son, marine and teammate.
Also Thursday, a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 crashed outside
Colorado Springs, Colorado, but that pilot, Maj. Alex Turner, ejected
safely. The Thunderbirds had just performed over the open-air graduation
ceremony at the nearby Air Force Academy, where President Barack Obama
The high-flying and precise aerobatic demonstration teams were
described by a veteran pilot as worth the money and the risk because
they’re vital to recruitment and help citizens feel good about their
“It’s our No. 1 recruiting tool,” said retired Air Force Col. Pete McCaffrey, who flew with the Thunderbirds from 1992 to 1995.
Most people don’t get to see the military up close, but when they see
the elite air squadrons perform, “it gives them a sense of pride in
their military and their country, and I think now we need that more than
ever,” McCaffrey said Friday.
The military hasn’t publicly discussed the cause of either crash. Both are under investigation.
The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds have had dozens of crashes in their
long histories, and a total of at least nine pilots been killed during
performances or practices since 1985.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.