Class of 2009 – The Blue Angels
The biographical information below was compiled by Alan Renga, Assistant Archivist, for the 2009 International Hall of Fame Gala. For more information on the Museum’s Library and Archives, click here.
They are the most famous and admired flight demonstration team in the world, they have been thrilling onlookers for 63 years and they have performed in front of more than 400 million spectators worldwide. They are the Blue Angels!
The United States Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, popularly known as the Blue Angels, came into existence after World War II because Chester W. Nimitz, then the Chief of Naval Operations, wanted to boost Navy morale, demonstrate naval air power, and maintain public interest in naval aviation. Lieutenant Commander Roy Marlin “Butch” Voris, a World War II fighter ace, was selected to assemble and train a flight demonstration team. The team, known as the Blue Angels, gave their first demonstration in June of 1946 in Jacksonville flying the Grumman F6F Hellcat. Soon after, the team transitioned to the more powerful Grumman F8F Bearcat and the now famous Diamond Formation was introduced.
By 1950, the Blues 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 Kittens, in 1950. The next year the Blues were reformed and based out of NAS Corpus Christi Texas, where they utilized the F9F-5, an upgraded version of the Panther. In 1954 the Angels relocated to their present home base at NAS Pensacola, Florida and were assigned the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 Cougar.
In subsequent years, the team flew many different aircraft, including the F-11-1 Tiger, the F-4J Phantom II and the A-4F Skyhawk II. In 1986 the Blue Angels completed their 40th anniversary by unveiling their present aircraft, the powerful and aerodynamic McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The Hornet (now produced by Boeing) is a multirole fighter, designed to attack both ground and aerial targets and has a maximum speed of mach 1.8 (1,190 mph).
The team is supported by more than 40 personnel, who are transported in a Lockheed-Martin C-130T Hercules, affectionately known as Fat Albert Airlines. Fat Albert joined the team in 1970 and flies more than 140,000 miles each season. In addition to the support personnel, it carries gear and enough spare parts and communication equipment to complete a successful air show.
Although the blues are based out of NAS Pensacola, they have winter training in nearby NAF El Centro, California. Currently, the Blues’ 6 demonstration pilots fly in 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the United States each year. The San Diego Air and Space Museum has a close connection to the Blues, as two former Museum Directors, Richard “Zeke” Cormier and Ed McKellar, were members of the team.
For their skill, dedication and pride which are always apparent at their breathtaking shows, the San Diego Air & Space Museum takes great pride in inducting The Blue Angels into its International Aerospace Hall of Fame.