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Navy Blue Angel Aviators Die in Crash

Dateline 10/28/99

Two Navy Blue Angels aviators died on Thursday, October 28, 1999, when their F-18/A was trying to land during a routine training mission near Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

Cmdr. Jack Papp, a Navy spokesman in Pensacola, Fla., where the Blue Angels are based, confirmed the deaths. No names were released pending notification of relatives.

``The accident took place around 12:30 this afternoon. They were coming in to land, practicing arrival maneuvers when this happened,'' said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon in Washington.

Official U.S. Navy Photo

The Navy's Premier Air Demonstration Team. The 1998 show season brought out more than 15 million spectators, and since 1946, the Blue Angels have performed for more than 322 million.

``The Navy does not yet have a clear picture of what happened,'' he said. Military aviation accident investigation can take several weeks, if not months, to complete.

The Navy's premiere demonstration team was scheduled to perform this weekend at Moody Air Force Base, during the base's annual Community Appreciation Day. The team and their six aircraft completed their last performance on October 24th in Little Rock, Arkansas.

No word has been released as to whether the team will complete the remainder of its 1999 schedule.

The Blue Angels performed its first demonstration in June 1946, less than one year after Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, the Chief of Naval Operations, ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to keep the public interested in Naval Aviation. The team's first air feats were displayed to the public at their home base, Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida. Flying the Grumman F6F Hellcat., they were led by Lt. Cmdr. Roy "Butch" Voris.

Only two months later on August 25, 1946, the Blue Angels transitioned to the Grumman F8F Bearcat and introduced the famous "diamond" formation.

By the end of the 1940s, the Blue Angels were flying their first jet aircraft, the Grumman F9F-2 Panther. In response to the demands placed on Naval Aviation in the Korean Conflict, the team reported to the aircraft carrier USS Princeton as the nucleus of Fighter Squadron 191 (VF-191), "Satan's Kitten", in 1950.

They were reorganized the next year and reported to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, where they began flying the newer and faster version of the Panther, the F9F-5. The Blue Angels remained in Corpus Christi until the winter of 1954 when they relocated to their present home at NAS Pensacola, Florida. It was here that they progressed to the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 Cougar.

The ensuing 20 years saw the Blue Angels transition to two more aircraft, the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger (1957) and the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II (1969).

In December 1974, the Navy Flight Demonstration Team began flying the McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II and was reorganized into the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. This reorganization permitted the establishment of a commanding officer vice a flight leader, added support officers, and further redefined the squadron's mission emphasizing the support of recruiting efforts. Cmdr. Tony Less was the squadron's first official commanding officer.

A Navy F-18/A Breaks the sound barrier. The F/A-18 Hornet, is an all-weather aircraft. It's designed to be used as both an attack aircraft as well as a fighter.

Official U.S. Navy Photo

On November 8, 1986, the Blue Angels completed their 40th anniversary year during ceremonies unveiling their present aircraft, the sleek McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, the first dual-role fighter/attack aircraft now serving on the nation's front lines of defense. Since 1946, the Blue Angels have flown for more than 260 million spectators.

Counting the scheduled show at Moody Air Force Base, the team only has three airshows left in it's 1999 schedule. The squadron spends the winter (January through March) at Naval Air Facility (NAF), El Centro, California, training pilots and new crew members.

The last crash involving the Navy's high-precision flying team occurred in 1990, and the last fatality occurred on July 13, 1985, in Niagara Falls, N.Y., when Lt. Cmdr. Michael Gershon died in a fiery crash after two planes collided during an air show.

There have been a total of 23 Navy aviators killed in air shows or training since the group was formed in 1946.

Related Information:

U.S. Navy Blue Angel Official Web site

U.S. Military Navy Links

Aviation Information Site

Atlanta Local Site

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