Northern Michigan feels loss of U.S. Navy Blue Angels Pilot
GRAND TRAVERSE CO., Mi. (WPBN/WGTU) — Much of the country is still in shock after a U.S. Navy Blue Angels Pilot was killed in a crash not far from Nashville Thursday.
While it doesn’t appear Captain Jeff Kuss flew in Traverse City during the last National Cherry Festival Air Show in 2014, his death has impacted many people in northern Michigan.
For the last 25 years, our eyes have stayed glued to the sky for the Blue Angels’ thrilling air shows during the festival, leaving many feeling connected to the team’s loss.
Members of Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City and those behind the National Cherry Festival say they were devastated when they heard the news.
“You think about the pilot, you think about the family, it even impacts the families that we have here,” said Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot, LCDR Charlie Wilson. “They’ve got mom and dad going off to strap on an aircraft and do the same thing. It just hits very close to home.”
Wilson says he didn’t know Capt. Kuss, but their connection as military brothers has still left a lasting impression.
“Kind of like a family community,” Wilson said. “So when you have that bond, even though they are in a different service as naval aviators, you share a common bond.”
Wilson, along with many others at Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City have worked side-by-side with the Blue Angels and their team during their visits to the National Cherry Festival.
“Instant friends when they show up and you have interaction with them,” Wilson said.
The Blue Angels are scheduled to return for opening weekend of the July festival.
Festival Executive Director, Trevor Tkach says the news of the pilot’s death was devastating to the entire festival family.
“The loss of a life of a soldier, I mean that’s painful enough, but then to have such a close relationship like we do with that team really hurt,” Tkach said.
Right now the 2016 Air Show is scheduled to go on as planned, with the Blue Angels.
“We don’t want to jeopardize having a successful show again for this year so until we hear word from them, from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels team on what their plan is, we’re going to proceed as if we’re having them in our air show,” Tkach said.
While safety is always the highest concern, Tkach says he has no added worries following Thursday’s tragedy.
“They’re the best pilots in the world, lets not forget that,” Tkach said. “We consider it entertainment but they’re pilots you know, defending our freedoms and I wouldn’t trust anybody more than the Blue Angels to fly and keep things safe.”
Tkach says if the Blue Angels do cancel their show for the 2016 National Cherry Festival the air show will still go on with the remaining acts.
The Blue Angels have canceled their air shows for the next two weekends in Nashville Tennessee and Syracuse New York.