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The Blue Angels

by John M. White |  | 6 comments

Initial Blue Angels Aircraft - Grumman F6F Hellcats The Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron was ordered to be formed by the Chief of Naval Operations at the end of the Second World War by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. The idea behind forming this flight demonstration squadron was to keep the general public enthused about aviation through flying in formation which would help attract prospective Navy pilots to enlist. Admiral Nimitz choose Lt. Commander Roy "Butch" Voris (WWII Ace with 8 victories) to lead and form the squadron at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, FL. The squadron was given Grumman F6F "Hellcat" aircraft to fly and performed their first air show flying in formation in June of 1946 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, much to the delight of the personnel there. The Blue Angels Grumman F8F Bearcat Aircraft

The Early Years

Initially the pilots trained twice a day and in less than a month they were ready to put on their very first air show at the naval air station, followed up by a public air show about a month later. Now you may think that these early air shows resemble the ones we see today, but you would be wrong. The airshow consisted of an aerial battle involving 4 Navy "Hellcats" fighting off a Japanese Fighter (really just an SNJ painted yellow with the red Japanese meatball painted on the sides. After the enemy fighter was hit the pilot in the rear of the SNJ would throw out a small parachute to simulate a Japanese pilot bailing out. These flights lasted about 15 minutes. Shortly thereafter in August 1946 the squadron was refitted with Grumman F8f "Bearcat" aircraft and introduced their famous diamond formation flight to the public. While ferrying the aircraft from the Grumman factory in Bethpage, NY the formation landed in Norfolk, VA for refueling and most of them crash landed. It was discovered that when the armament was removed from the aircraft no one bothered to recalculate the weight and balance and with little fuel the aircraft became unstable. In 1947 the Blue Angels were led by Lt. Commander Clarke who introduced the now well known diamond formation. This maneuver was not only performed in level flight, but the team performed a loop and barrel roll in the diamond formation as well.

Things In Aviation Change Quickly, And The Blue Angels Soon Transition Into Jet Aircraft.

When the United States found itself embroiled in the Korean Conflict in 1950 the Blue Angels team were transitioning into the Grumman F9F-2 "Panther" aircraft which were fitted with smoke generators to emit both blue and red smoke, highlighting many of their maneuvers. By November of 1950 the Blue Angel crews were sent to serve on the aircraft carrier the "USS Princeton" as part of the "Satan's Kitten" fighter squadron.  Blue Angels Grumman F9F-8 "Cougar" Aircraft In October of 1951 the team was reorganized and sent to Corpus Christi, TX were they made the transition into the newer and faster Grumman F9F-5 aircraft. By now the Blue Angels were settling into their role as the Navy's flight demonstration team. But on July 7th, 1952 the #1 aircraft collided with the #4 aircraft during a low altitude demonstration at Corpus Christi. Lt. Commander Voris, flying the #1 aircraft, managed to safely land his badly damaged aircraft; however, Lt. Wood ejected from the #4 aircraft but did not have enough altitude to separate from the ejection seat and died of his injuries.

Here Come The Marines!

By the winter of 1954 they had returned to Pensacola and transitioned into the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 "Cougar" aircraft. That same year Marine pilots were invited to join the Blue Angels, and it was during this time that they received their special colored flying suits. At the start of 1955 the team once again transitions into a new airplane, this time the Grumman F9F-8 "Cougar", their first swept wing aircraft. In 1957 the team once again transitioned into a new aircraft - the Grumman F11F-1 "Tiger". During 1961 through 1963 the Blue Angels perfected landing their formation of 6 aircraft in a delta configuration simultaneously.

The Blue Angels Fly To Europe

During the summer of 1965 the Blue Angels toured Europe with their air shows, performing in France, Great Britain, Finland, Denmark, Holland and Iceland. The team became an instant international hit. But accidents continued to plague the team. On September 2nd, 1966 during an air show in Toronto, Canada the #5 aircraft was lost after two solo aircraft performed the "knife edge" pass over Lake Ontario when the aircraft's wingtip touched the water as the pilot exited the following low level roll causing Lt. Commander Oliver to lose control of the aircraft and crashed into a breakwater. Three more accidents followed in the Grumman F11F-1 aircraft which ended the use of that aircraft by the Blue Angels. In 1969 the team transitioned into the McDonnell Douglas F-4J "Phantom II" aircraft. The Blue Angels McDonnell Douglas F-4J "Phantom II" Aircraft

Bad Luck Donile

Marine Captain Donile must have thought his flying was jinxed as he survived a number of incidents flying the F-4J "Phantom II" aircraft. On August 6th 1969 during a practice he exceeded the speed of sound over downtown Kelowna British Columbia, Canada, shattering a lot of glass and injuring several people from the flying glass. On September 19th of the same year he had to eject from his aircraft over San Francisco Bay during an airshow, followed by another ejection on November 6th during an airshow at El Paso, Texas. Fortunately for Captain Donile he survived all of these incidents without injury.

Off To Aisa

Adding to their worldwide reputation, the Blue Angels toured Asia performing air shows in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Guam and the Phillipines. But problems continued to plague the use of the Grumman F-4J "Phantom II" aircraft leading to a re-evaluation of the Blue Angels and resulting in some major changes. The Blue Angels became a full-fledged squadron, and transitioned into the A-4F "Skyhawk" aircraft after some modifications for air show work. Among the modifications were:
  • Wing slats were locked to prevent accidental asymetrical deployment;
  • Smoke oil tanks were added;
  • The internal fuel plumbing was modified to extend inverted flight time by 30 seconds;
  • The horizontal stabilizer was altered to allow 3 degrees more down trim;
  • Stick forces were modified in the pitch axis to allow one position for air shows and another for cross country flight;
  • A stowable crew ladder was placed in the former left hand gun bay;
  • Removal of avionics pod and some weapons delivery avionics;
  • A drag chute was installed to allow operations at smaller airports.
The Blue Angels McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 "Hornet" Aircraft

The McDonnel Douglas F/A-18 Hornet Arrives

On the 40th anniversary of the Blue Angels they unveiled their latest aircraft - the McDonnell Douglass F/A-18 "Hornet" which they are currently flying. The Blue Angels continue to be one of the best liked and best attended aerial demonstration teams in the world. With a rich history of flight demonstrations I would imagine they will continue on for many more years to come. You can find more information about the Blue Angels and their 2012 schedule at their official website "Blue Angels". Following is a great new video showing the Blue Angels in flight in HD: - Send A Tweet On The Post - Call To Action Please share "The Blue Angels" with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks!           Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+ ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!
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Comments (6)

  • JetAviator7 on June 24, 2019


    You might be surprised. If you hang around the airport where you take flying lessons you will meet other who are interested in flying. Also, I found people through networking who were interested in taking short trips to interesting places and who were fascinated about doing it by a small airplane.

    Once you get your Commercial Pilot’s license and your Certified Flight Instructor’s rating it is fairly easy to get a job teaching flying. Now, CFIs don’t make a fortune, but if you work for an Fixed Base Operator you may get additional flight time with charter pilots as a co-pilot, ferrying airplanes, etc.

    There is a rumor that there will be lots of airline jobs in the future, but I have heard this story before. Nonetheless, the commuter carriers do hire a lot of pilots.

    So, yes, it is possible to make a living as a charter pilot or flight instructor, particularly if you instruct for one of the university flight programs.



  • Jack on June 24, 2019

    Hi John, my name is Jack,
    I’ve found your blog a while ago while looking for aviator sunglasses and I after that I’ve been reading your blog for a while now… first of all I want to I tell you that I like many of your posts, I like aircrafts in general and think I’d study to be a pilot if the flight hours needed to be a commercial pilot weren’t that many and so costly (I could manage to get a private license but that’ll already need a lot of money)… but what can I do?…
    well lets stop with this, as it wasn’t what I was having in mind to say…
    what I wanted to say/ask was that, sometimes I read an article here (sometimes I don’t have time to read it all) and later I want to come back to read it again or finish the reading, but there is no way (or I haven’t found it yet) to look for some older articles.. is there any way of searching the older stuff? I can’t seem to find any “older” button.. maybe it would help having a way of looking into categories when you’re in the home section, if it isn’t too hard to implement (I’ve found that if I type “/category/” after the home URL it directs me to a site where i actually can see the older stuff but that its a bit messy and I’m not shure if that will keep working) and think a search option would definitively help…

    by the way… is there any way, I don’t know, of getting flight hours with good discounts/free flight hours once you get the private pilot license? as I said before.. I could manage to get the 40 flight hours to private with what I actually earn but I’d do it in about just the 2 years required, and if I was to get the commercial pilot license at that rate it would take me many years to accomplish that (and I have no chance of joining the air forces, in case you would suggest that)… any help on this topic will be appreciated.

    well, last of all hope you keep posting cool stuff about aviation, I will keep coming to read.. and sorry if my message is a bit lenghty.. thanks in advance!

  • JetAviator7 on June 24, 2019

    Hi Jack:

    Thanks for the comments – yes, if you are reading one of my posts and look in the right hand column just under the “Find Us On Facebook” box you will see a drop down for our Archives where you can look at earlier posts.

    When I first got my Private Pilot’s license I would get 2-3 friends together who were interested in taking a short trip and who would split the costs with me. This helped me build hours until I could get my Commercial Pilot’s License and Instructors Certificate when I finally got paid for flying!



  • Jack on June 24, 2019

    Hi John, oooops! I didn’t see the drop down, sorry… at first, thanks for your answer!

    Continuing with the flight hours and that stuff.. I don’t see that chance of friends helping, or well maybe but I don’t have that many friends as to cut down the hours significatively..
    but well, what can I do? let’s assume I manage to get the comercial license, getting into an airline I figured it will be extremely hard, and the thing is that albeit I’d like be a pilot, and study that, my actual income makes me think about something I can make a living with within lets say 5-6 years at the most.. so was wondering: is it possible in these days to make a living working for as pilot for ar taxi and/or as instructor??
    Thanks again for your help,



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