Blue Angels Schedule

Two military planes go down in unrelated incidents

A Blue Angels plane crashed just outside Nashville on the same day a Thunderbird plane went down after flying over the Air Force Academy’s graduation. The Blue Angels pilot died, but the thunderbird pilot is in good condition. VPC

Two military planes went down on Thursday in coincidental unrelated incidents in Colorado and in Tennessee, and the pilot in one incident died, the U.S. Navy confirmed.

A U.S. official identified the Tennessee pilot, a member of the fabled Blue Angels, as Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, the Associated Press was reporting.

The 32-year-old pilot was from Durango, Colo., and graduated from Fort Lewis College in southwestern Colorado in 2006 with a degree in economics, according to The Tennessean. That same year, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, the Tennessean reported. He joined the Blue Angels in September 2014.

The jet Kuss piloted crashed just after takeoff for a practice flight in Smyrna, Tenn., U.S. Navy officials said.

“We’re devastated at the news at the loss of Capt. Kuss. He was a Skyhawk and we at Fort Lewis College are very proud of what he accomplished in his career,” said Mitchel Davis, the public affairs officer at Fort Lewis College.  “And I’m sure I speak for the alumni of Fort Lewis College everywhere that our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

On Thursday morning, the Blue Angels urged fans in Nashville via Facebook to look up at about 9:40 a.m. local time to see the jets on their way to a Nashville International Airport flyover and then Smyrna for The Great Tennessee Air Show this weekend.

In the other incident, a U.S. Air Force elite Thunderbird jet crashed during a flyover for the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. The Air Force confirmed the crash of the F-16.

The pilot managed to eject safely before the crash and was unharmed, Air Combat Command confirmed, adding that the pilot steered to an unpopulated area before ejecting.

The pilot was rescued by local first responders, Master Sgt. Chrissy Best, Thunderbirds spokeswoman, told The Air Force Times.

The Thunderbirds’ website lists Maj. Alex Turner as pilot of the jet.

The incident happened at about 1 p.m. local time, officials said.
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Smyrna family witnesses the Blue Angels crash as they flew a practice run, getting ready for the Smyrna Air Show Friday. Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean

President Obama, in town to deliver the commencement address at the Air Force Academy, visited with the pilot and thanked him for his service to the country, the White House confirmed.

The pilot was up and walking around during President Obama’s visit, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

In Tennessee, Blue Angels fans expressed condolences and concerns on the team’s Facebook page.

“Prayers for the loss the Angels face today,” fan Katie Bella wrote. “God bless all of you and thank you all for your service to this country.”

“My heart is broken for your loss,” wrote fan Rachel Long-Distelrath. “God bless the Blue Angels.”

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