Here’s the history of the Blue Angels, the world’s most famous aerobatic team that was originally meant to boost morale after WW2.
Blue Angel flying low
Not long after the Wright brothers made their historic flight, ingenious men began using airplanes in a variety of ways that have since become common place in the modern world. As a fast and safe mode of transportation, an efficient way to haul goods to the delivery of healthcare and medicines, the airplane is has proven itself as an indispensable machine.
In a similar vein, while most men saw the airplane as a tool to help in jobs and work, other more imaginative, adventurous men saw the airplane as a means to explore, a means to entertain and a way to perform feats of bravery and aerial acrobatics.
In this article, we look at one of the best teams that perform amazing feats of aerobatics, a select group of men and machines that have thrilled audiences since the days of WW2 where their skill and courage at piloting aircraft entertained their both their brothers in arms and their nation caught up in the ravages of war. Today we check out these amazing facts about the Blue Angels.
The brainchild of famed WW2 admiral Chester Nimitz, the Blue Angels were created in 1946 to provide morale to the troops and garner public support and interest in military aviation. Initially led by WW2 ace Rey Voris, he selected three other skilled pilot/instructors that formed the first team of naval aviation aerial acrobats.
While the Blue Angels’ almost seventy-five year history is indeed a long time together as a team, the honor of being the very first aerial stunt/performance team goes to Patrouille de France whose origins date back to 1931, a good fifteen years head start.
As the Blue Angels officially formed in April 1946 and was scheduled to perform in August, the team of Commander Voris had four months to train. In response, they spent much time in practice and perfected its initial maneuvers in secret over the Florida Everglades. A decision humorously described by Voris, “if anything happened, just the alligators would know”.
As WW2 only recently ended, the navy’s old workhorse, the Hellcat, found itself as the ride of the newly formed Blue Angels team for its first ever exhibition in July 1946. Less than a month later, the team transitioned to the newer Bearcat and used it until 1949.
When they started, the Blue Angels used battle hardened WW2 era planes, but this changed in 1949, when the new F9F-2 Panther was adopted by the team. This marked a significant change as the power and handling of their aircraft allowed them to perform faster and more complex flying.
The main qualifications to become a Blue Angel pilot require the applicant to be either Navy and Marine Corps aviators with a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet hours and must be carrier-qualified. For selection, current team members hold a secret vote with no accountability to higher Navy authority and finally, all votes must be unanimous.
The signature move of the Blue Angels is the “Diamond Formation” in which 4 of the planes form a tight cluster with the other 2 making their own. From this “diamond” the planes then transition to the other maneuvers and stunts and finish the performance by having the plane move to the Delta formation.
Despite performing some of the most difficult aerial maneuvers, the Blue Angels pilots don’t use protective G-suits as the inflation/deflation air bladder function could interfere with the pilots’ ability for precision control. To compensate, the pilots have trained in breathing and muscle control to prevent blacking out while doing High G movements.
Humorously named “Fat Albert” the C-130 Hercules is the largest aircraft used by the Blue Angels. Used primarily to transport equipment, tools and supplies, this behemoth used to perform its own exhibition as well, (jet assisted take-offs) until supplies of the rockets became scarce and the stunt was no longer included in their performances.
From 1946 to 1986, the Blue Angels have flown a total of ten different types of aircraft. From the WW2 prop planes to today’s fourth generation fighter jets, the team have used the current aircraft in use by the navy as their precision instruments for their exhibitions.
“The Cradle of Naval Aviation”, Pensacola naval air station is the home of the Blue Angels. Located in Florida, the base serves as a technical school and training facility for navy, marine and coast guard personnel.
Born as a machine made for war, the F/A 18 Multi role fighter used by the Blue Angels is maintained in top shape all year round to ensure the safety of the pilots during their training and performances, and as both the plane and pilots are active duty members of the naval aviation squad, the jets are capable of being combat, and carrier ready in less than seventy-two hours.
While watching the Blue Angels perform their aerial mastery on the ground is a visual treat, the real thrill goes to the pilot and certain audience members or VIP’s that are granted a seat in the actual plane during some of their performances.
Initially called “Navy Flight Exhibition Team”, the name Blue Angels came from the New Yorker, a magazine that featured a club called “The Blue Angels” which a pilot saw and suggested as the new name. As a naval organization, the team adopted the blue and gold colors to reflect their origins, marking all their planes in this paint scheme.
After thirty-five years the Blue Angels will be using a different plane. By 2021, delivery of the more powerful F/A 18 Super Hornets to the team will commence, replacing their older 1986 issued Hornets. With this upgrade to a faster, more maneuverable jet, its quite likely that the Blue Angels will be able to level up their already impressive routines.