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The US Navy’s aerobatic display planes are called the Blue Angels

Posted in Aviation, Historical articles, History on Friday, 30 August 2013

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This edited article about aviation originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 390 published on 5 July 1969.

Blue Angels, picture, image, illustration

A solo Phantom with afterburners lit is rocketing in for a high-speed pass, as the four-aircraft group sweeps away, trailing smoke by Wilf Hardy

The “Blue Angels” are to the United States Navy what the Red Arrows are to the Royal Air Force and the Thunder Birds are to the United States Air Force – the premier precision aerobatic display team.

Their displays have three main purposes; to encourage recruiting, to demonstrate to budding (and experienced) U.S. Navy pilots exactly how accurately it is possible to fly the most modern of jet fighters, and to “show the flag.”

Like the other famous teams mentioned, the “Blue Angels” specialise in superb showmanship, breathtakingly precise aerobatics and split-second timing. This demands a skill and physical endurance which is attained only by hours of gruelling practice, to which has recently been added the task of adapting their programme to the characteristics of a totally different type of aircraft.

For years they flew dark blue and yellow Grumman F-11A Tigers. This F-11A is a Navy carrier fighter, which, though long since out of front-line squadrons, was an ideal aerobatic mount. The advancing age of the Tiger airframes has now made them unfit for further flying, and late in 1968 the team took delivery of eight McDonnell F-4J Phantoms. The Phantom is one of the most powerful and heavy fighters in the world.

The programme flown by the team consists of alternating passes in front of the spectators by a tight-knit group of four aircraft, and two solo specialists, so that for every second of the forty-five minutes of each display, something is happening for the crowd. For some of the most spectacular “bomb-burst” and “cross-over” manoeuvres, the two groups join up into a six-aircraft formation.

The “Blue Angels” operate on a world-wide basis, and visit air displays in any country by invitation. They have appeared in Britain before, and will probably do so again!

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