The US. Navy’s Blue Angel flight demonstration squadron has taken delivery of their first Super Hornet test aircraft from Boeing cementing their 50-year partnership. The unpainted aircraft now enters the flight test and evaluation phase at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. A further 10 aircraft are expected to be delivered later this year.
“The Super Hornet is an iconic representation of excellence in naval aviation,” said ret. Admiral Pat Walsh, vice president of US. Navy & Marine Corps Services for Boeing. Walsh flew with the Blue Angels from 1985 to 1987 as the Left Wingman (#3) and Slot Pilot (#4). “As Boeing continues to support the operational fleet of Navy Super Hornets, we are excited to see this platform enter a critical phase of its journey to joining the team.”
The flight demonstration squadron has flown Boeing or Boeing-heritage aircraft for more than 50 years, starting with the F-4J Phantom II in 1969, and then moving to the A-4F Skyhawk. The team currently operates the F/A-18A-D Hornet.
Boeing converts F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets into Blue Angels at the company’s Cecil Field facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Major modifications include the addition of an oil tank for the smoke-generation system, fuel systems that enable the aircraft to fly inverted for extended periods of time, civilian-compatible navigation equipment, cameras and adjustments for the aircraft’s centre of gravity.
In 1946, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, had a vision to create a flight exhibition team in order to raise the public's interest in naval aviation and boost Navy morale. In the 1940's, we thrilled audiences with our precision combat manoeuvres in the F6 Hellcat, the F8 Bearcat and the F9 Panther. During the 1950's, we refined our demonstration with aerobatic manoeuvres in the F9 Cougar and F-11 Tiger and introduced the first six-plane delta formation, still flown to this day. By the end of the 1960's, we were flying the F-4 Phantom, the only two seat aircraft flown by the delta formation. In 1974, we transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk, a smaller and lighter aircraft with a tighter turning radius allowing for a more dynamic flight demonstration. In 1986, we celebrated our 40th Anniversary by unveiling the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet, which we still fly to this day.
In 1949, it became necessary for the Blue Angels to operate a support aircraft to move personnel and equipment between show sites. These support aircraft including the Douglas R4D Sky Train, the Curtiss R5C Commando, the Douglas R5D Skymaster, and the Lockheed C-121 Super Constellation. In 1970 the team received the Lockheed Martin C-130, affectionately known as "Fat Albert."