FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

During the course of the demonstration season the Blue Angels answer many questions from enthusiasts about their aircraft, demonstration, organization, and history. Here we have listed some of the most frequently asked questions. Click on a question to reveal the answer.

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The mission of the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach.
The Blue Angels typically provide two backseat flights at each show site for selected personnel. Both riders fly with the Number 7 pilot in the two-seat jet. One of those riders are selected from the Key Influencer (KI) program and the other is a credentialed media representative. The KI program selects individuals who shape attitudes and opinions of youth in their communities. KIs may be experts in their field, public figures, leaders of youth organizations, teachers, guidance counselors or school administrators. They are not always the person at the top of an organization, but rather individuals that have an impact on recruiting youth and/or a specific target audience. Flying these candidates, in coordination with media presence, is intended to promote the Navy and Marine Corps as professional and exciting organizations in which to serve. To be selected as a Key Influencer, you must first be nominated by a commanding officer of a Navy or a Marine Corps recruiting district. For more information, contact your local recruiter or air show.
The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, ordered the establishment of the team on April 24, 1946.
The name was picked by the original team when they were planning a show in New York in 1946. One of them came across the name of the city's famous Blue Angel nightclub in the New Yorker Magazine.
Craig Field, Jacksonville, Florida, on June 15, 1946.
Current Department of Defense policy states the use of military aviation demonstration teams is for recruiting purposes; therefore the teams usually do not fly within 150 miles of each other without special permission. Each demonstration team showcases U. S. military aviation capabilities to the public separately to maximize Navy or Air Force recruiting efforts. However, the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds often perform with the U. S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, or the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leapfrogs.
An estimated 11 million spectators view the squadron during air shows each year. Additionally, the Blue Angels visit more than 50,000 people a show season (March through November) during school and hospital visits.
Each applicant must be career-oriented, carrier-qualified, active-duty Navy or Marine Corps tactical jet pilot with a minimum of 1,250 flight hours.
Including the 2019 season, there have been 267 demonstration pilots and 37 Flight Leaders/Commanding Officers.
Some current and former Blue Angels pilots have gone through TOPGUN; however, it is not a prerequisite.
Each September, the Department of Defense receives hundreds of requests to hold air shows featuring the Navy Blue Angels. After the Department of Defense screens requests for basic eligibility, requests are forwarded to the Blue Angels' Commanding Officer. The squadron reviews each air show request, considering input from the Chief of Naval Information and Navy Recruiting Command. In December, the Blue Angels' Events Coordinator, along with Navy and Department of Defense officials, meet at a scheduling conference for final considerations and approval.
Navy and Marine Corps pilots meeting the basic requirements submit an application directly to the team via the Applications Officer. Applicants visit the squadron at scheduled show sites early in the show season to observe the team firsthand. Finalists are selected mid-season and interviewed at the Blue Angels' squadron in Pensacola, Florida. The new demonstration pilots and support officers are selected by unanimous vote. The Chief of Naval Air Training selects the Flight Leader/Commanding Officer.
Safety is paramount for every demonstration. Each pilot is responsible for good health and safety; however, the Blue Angels Flight Surgeon will medically disqualify a pilot if one should become ill or injured. Should the Flight Leader/Commanding Officer be grounded for medical purposes, the demonstration will be canceled.
With the number of practice hours required to safely fly a demonstration, a spare pilot could not be utilized effectively. Each pilot must complete 120 training flights during winter training in order to perform a public demonstration safely. The teamwork required for the high-speed, low-altitude flying in the tight Blue Angel formation takes hundreds of hours to develop. A substitute pilot would not have enough time in the formation to do this safely.
G-suits are designed with air bladders (pockets) that inflate and deflate to keep a pilot's blood from pooling in the pilots' legs while executing sharp, unpredicted combat maneuvers. Unlike combat flying, the Blue Angels demonstration pilots know the maneuvers they will fly prior to execution, so each pilot knows when one will be experiencing heavy gravitational forces. Anticipating the changes in gravitational forces allows the Blue Angels demonstration pilots to combat G-forces with muscle contractions. Additionally, G-suits would detrimentally impact flight safety.The Boeing F/A-18's control stick is mounted between the pilot's legs. The Blue Angels have a spring tensioned with 40 pounds of pressure installed on the control stick that gives the pilot a "false feel." This allows the pilot minimal room for un-commanded movement. The pilots rest their right arms on their thighs for support and stability while flying. Therefore, inflating and deflating air bladders in a G-suit would interrupt this support and stability, causing un-commanded aircraft movement.
Fourteen former Blue Angels have made flag rank. The flag officers include:
  1. RADM E. L. Feightner (ret.), #5, 1952
  2. RADM W. Lewis Chatham (ret.), #5, 1952
  3. RADM W. A. Gureck (ret.), #2/4, 1955-56
  4. RADM Ernest Christensen (ret.), #3/4, 1969-70
  5. RADM Jim Maslowski (ret.), #3/4, 1970-71
  6. VADM Tony Less (ret.), #1, 1974-75
  7. RADM William E. Newman (ret.), #1, 1978-79
  8. RADM Dennis Wisely (ret.), #1, 1980-81
  9. BGEN Mark Bircher (ret.), #2, 1985-1987
  10. RADM David Anderson (ret.), #5/6/7, 1985-87
  11. VADM Pat Walsh (ret.), #3/4, 1985-87
  12. RADM Doug McClain (ret.), #3/4, 1988-90
  13. RADM P. D. Moneymaker (ret.), #1, 1989-90
  14. RDML John Kirby (ret.), Public Affairs Officer, 1993-97
  15. RDML R. Duke Heinz, Supply Officer, 1996-97
  16. RDML Patrick Driscoll (ret.), #1, 1999-2000
CDR Chuck Brady, Flight Surgeon, 1989-90.
Each applicant is selected from a pool of applicants that can fill upcoming job vacancies. The team accepts applications from all aviation and support ratings. All applicants are interviewed and spend five days with the team either in Pensacola or at a show site. Exceptions to the above are made for applicants who are on deployment or overseas. For more information, please see the application message under "How to Apply."
The Blue Angels are representatives of the excellence and professionalism found throughout the fleet. Each Blue Angel team member is an ambassador and representative of their fleet counterparts.
Officers on the team generally serve two to three years, while the enlisted personnel serve three to four years. Each member, both officers and enlisted, return to the fleet after completing a tour with the Blue Angels.
There are 18 Marines on the 2019 team. There are three C-130 pilots and five enlisted aircrew in Fat Albert Airlines. There is one F/A-18 pilot and nine enlisted Marines on the jet maintenance team.
The number of women varies each year. The 2019 Blue Angels have 23 women on the team, to include 1 officer, 21 enlisted, and 1 civilian.
Individuals are made aware that they will be away from home a lot before they volunteer for duty with the team, and are selected based on their ability to cope with not only family separation, but with a strenuous practice and show schedule. Additionally, the Navy, Blue Angels, and civilian communities at Pensacola, Fla., and El Centro, Calif., provide a family-type support network.
No. Each member of the squadron volunteers for duty with the Blue Angels. Due to extreme competition at all levels, each individual feels especially honored to be associated with the team.
To be able to perform, the Blue Angels must have at least three nautical miles of visibility horizontally from centerpoint, and a minimum cloud ceiling of 1,500 feet, which the FAA can waive to 1,000 feet. At these minimums, the Blue Angels can perform a limited number of maneuvers in what is called a "flat" show. When the ceiling is at least 4,500 feet and visibility at least three nautical miles, a "low" show can be performed, which includes some rolling maneuvers. With a minimum ceiling of 8,000 feet and visibility of three nautical miles, the Blue Angels can perform their "high" show, which includes all the maneuvers.
The closest the diamond will fly to each other is 18 inches during the Diamond 360 maneuver.
This varies due to weather conditions. The highest is the vertical roll, performed by the Opposing Solo (up to 15,000 feet) and the lowest is the Sneak Pass (as low as 50 feet) performed by the Lead Solo.
All maneuvers are demanding, both mentally and physically, and reflect the daily challenges met by fleet Navy and Marine Corps aviators.
The fastest speed is about 700 mph (just under Mach 1; Sneak Pass) and the slowest speed is about 120 mph (indicated speed; Section High Alpha), both flown by the solo pilots during the show.
Since 1946, there have been eight types of aircraft:
  1. Grumman F6F Hellcat, June-August 1946
  2. Grumman F8F Bearcat, August 1946-1949
  3. Grumman F9F-2 Panther (first jet), 1949-June 1950 and Grumman F9F-5 Panther 1951-Winter 1954/55
  4. Grumman F9F-8 Cougar, Winter 1954-55-mid-season 1957
  5. Grumman F11F-1 Tiger (first supersonic jet), mid-season 1957-1969
  6. McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II, 1969-December 1974
  7. McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II, December 1974-November 1986
  8. Boeing F/A-18 Hornet, November 1986-Present
* Additionally, in 1970 the Blue Angels integrated a Marine Corps C-130 Hercules aircraft, affectionately known as "Fat Albert", as the opener of the flight demonstration. The C-130 is a tactical transport aircraft built by Lockheed Martin.
The number of jets varies at any given time, but the average is 11.
The Blue Angel F/A-18s have the nose cannon removed, a smoke-oil tank installed and a spring installed on the stick which applies pressure for better formation and inverted flying. Otherwise, the aircraft that the squadron flies are the same as those in the fleet. Each Blue Angel aircraft is capable of being returned to combat duty aboard an aircraft carrier within 72 hours.
All of the Blue Angels' jets are carrier-capable and can be made combat ready in about 72 hours. The squadron's C-130 ("Fat Albert") is manned by an all-Marine Corps crew and was not designed for carrier operations.
The demonstration pilots fly the jets to each show site.
The basic acquisition price of a single F/A-18 A Hornet is approximately $21 million. The cost of additional weapons-related equipment varies according to the configuration, and use of each aircraft can significantly increase the total price.
The F/A-18 can reach speeds just under Mach 2, almost twice the speed of sound or about 1,400 mph. The maximum rate of climb of the F/A-18 is 30,000 feet per minute.
An F/A-18 weighs about 24,500 pounds, empty of all ordnance and aircrew.
The jets showcase the official colors of the U.S. Navy.
The F/A-18 can travel approximately 1,000 miles on a full load of fuel without external tanks. Adding the external tanks extends the range to approximately 1,200 miles.
The smoke is produced by pumping biodegradable, paraffin-based oil directly into the exhaust nozzles of the aircraft, where the oil is instantly vaporized into smoke. The smoke provides a traceable path for spectators to follow, so they can see the flight profile that has been flown. It also enhances safety of flight by providing a valuable means by which the solo pilots can see each other during opposing maneuvers and conditions of lowered visibility or haze. The smoke poses no hazard to the environment.
Since all maneuvers are preceded by radio communication, broadcasting these radio calls or making the frequencies of their radios publicly available could interfere with pilot communication, thereby jeopardizing the safety of flight.
"Fat Albert" is a nickname given to the plane by Marine Corps Blue Angel pilots in the 1970s because of its size and shape. It is a reference to the popular children's cartoon of the same era.
"JATO" stands for Jet-Assisted Take-Off. JATO was used by the Lockheed-Martin C-130 to take off from short runways and gain high altitude in a short period of time, as required in combat situations. The first Blue Angels JATO performance took place at NAS Pensacola in November 1975. Eight solid fuel JATO rocket bottles, each producing 1,000 pounds of thrust, helped propel Fat Albert skyward and captivated millions of spectators each year.
JATO bottles were produced in the Vietnam era. The last known stockpiles of JATO bottles were expended during the Blue Angels' 2009 show season. The last JATO performance for Fat Albert was at the NAS Pensacola Air Show in November 2009.
Fat Albert holds 46,000 pounds of fuel.
Fat Albert's cruising speed is 375 mph and shaft horsepower is about 4,500 per engine.
The maximum takeoff weight of Fat Albert is 155,000 pounds.
The distance under Fat Albert's propellers to the ground is approximately six feet.
For 2019, seven Marines are assigned to operate Fat Albert Airlines: three pilots, two loadmasters and two flight engineers.
The team has been flying the C-130 since 1970.
Yes. Throughout the years, the Blue Angels have had limited opportunities to perform overseas. In 1992 when the team completed a European tour performing in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Bulgaria, Italy, the United Kingdom, Romania, Spain and Germany. The most recent overseas trip occurred in 2018 to perform in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada.
Unfortunately, no. Due to hectic show and maintenance schedules, it is extremely difficult to schedule tours or photographic opportunities. People who desire to see the Blue Angels between shows are encouraged to view a practice demonstration at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola. Practices are usually held most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings; weather permitting, during the show season when the team is home. A tentative practice schedule may be viewed on the Blue Angels' website at www.blueangels.navy.mil/show/.
Unfortunately, the Blue Angels do not have "VIP" seating available to the public at any show. Air shows usually have general seating available to the public and VIP seating available for purchase. Information may be found on individual air show websites. Some show sites reserve alternate seating areas for a nominal fee. Interested individuals should contact the local air show coordinator for additional information.
The Super Hornet is 25% larger, can fly 40% further, remain on station 80% longer and carry more weapons than its predecessors. The Super Hornet F/A-18 E/F models have deployed with battle groups since 2001. While the Super Hornet has more recent technology, the Hornet has been a reliable asset for 30 years, and its many capabilities continue to meet the needs for the demonstration.
The transition is a complex process which involves many entities in the Naval Aviation Enterprise. Until the aircraft are modified, tested, delivered, and our pilots are completely trained in flying the demonstration in the Super Hornet, we will continue to focus all our attention and efforts on flying a safe and entertaining demonstration in the FA-18 Hornet.
The Blue Angels do not fly under any structures during an air show. Some of the maneuvers have the appearance that the jets are flying under structures, but this is always an optical illusion from the perspective of the crowd. For safety reasons, the Blue Angels will never fly underneath bridges or any other structures.
Sonic booms occur when an aircraft surpasses the speed of sound. At a Blue Angels air show, there should never be a sonic boom, as we are not authorized to exceed the speed of sound at a show. On occasion, spectators may have mistaken the sound of engines at a high-power setting approaching the speed of sound for a sonic boom.
The best way to begin the road to a successful career is to work hard in school, stay physically active, and refrain from illegal drug use. Additionally, it is helpful to serve in leadership roles and extracurricular activities. These principles apply in attaining a successful career both inside and outside the military. For more information about a career in the Navy and Marine Corps, see your local recruiter or visit www.navy.com or www.marines.com.
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