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Remembering Blue Angels Captain Jeff Kuss

This year’s Blue Angels show at the National Cherry Festival will be unique. They’re flying five jets, not six, after the crash that killed Captain Jeff Kuss. It’s a triumphant return to flying, and Northern Michigan gets a front row seat.
When the Blue Angels announced last year that they would return to Traverse City for the National Cherry Festival Air Show in 2016 excitement was as high as the jets these masters of the sky can fly.
“It’s a Traverse City tradition, it’s a Cherry Festival tradition,” says Trevor
Tkach, National Cherry Festival executive director.
It’s an understatement to say the Navy’s aerobatic team is a crowd favorite.
Captain Jeff Kuss was supposed to be here, but what happened June 2 in Smyrna, Tennessee would change everything.
A plume of black smoke and flames marked the crash site of Jet 6, a
tragedy ending Kuss’ life. A life dedicated to his country, and flying.
“I got my pilot’s license when I was 17, and I wanted to get in the
military and fly the fastest, meanest thing they could give me, and this
is it, the Hornet is it!” said Kuss.
Captain Kuss couldn’t hide his excitement over being a member of the elite team in interviews he gave in town after town.
“I get a smile on my face every time I get in the jet.”
And he put smiles on many other faces, doing the precise flying that the
Blue Angels are known for. Smiles that went away one month ago for
everyone involved in planning the air show.
“Obviously it was a devastating loss and we’ve got a close connection with the demonstration team,” says Trevor. “The Blue Angels are a part of our family, they’ve been a part of our tradition for more than 25 years on and off every year for that long. So it’s very sad.”
U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City Commander Greg Matyas says, “Aviation a tight-knit community. All Coast Guard Air Stations are tight-knit, the Navy Blue Angels are very tight-knit, because they’re practicing all the time, they have to know each other’s moves. So this is very devastating, especially for such a small unit like that.”
So as you look up with a quickening pulse at the wonders pulled off at this year’s show, remember the pilot you won’t see.
“I was once the little kid that we now see at the crowd lines, standing
2-feet tall looking up at the skies, and so to have that dream realized
for me is an absolute honor,” said Kuss.
Captain Jeff Kuss will absolutely be honored when the Blue Angels soar over Grand Traverse Bay once again this weekend, missing one man.
A GoFundMe page is raising money for Captain Kuss’ family, with a goal of $500,000.

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