Fly in the cockpit of the Blue Angels

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 8:35am
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

The Blue Angels are basically the cream of the crop of stunt pilots from the US Navy and Marine Corps. They are an exhibition team that participate in airshows all over the place and showcase the intense skills required to fly a jet.

There are a total of 16 officers on the team at any time with three tactical jet pilots, two support officers, and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot. Depending on their position, officers serve two to three years with the Blue Angels and then return to their fleets.

1946 Blue Angels (Photo Courtesy of

The number 1 jet is reserved for the "Boss," aka the Blue Angels Commanding Officer, who must have 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and experience commanding a tactical jet squadron. The Boss is chosen by the Chief of Naval Air training. Any career-oriented jet pilot is eligible to fly jets 2 through 7. But before throwing their hat in the ring, pilots must have an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours. Any career-oriented jet pilot is eligible to fly jets 2 through 7.1976 Blue Angels (Courtesy of

The number 8 jet must be a Naval Flight Officer or Weapons Systems officer (aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours), and whoever flies the C-130T Hercules aircraft, aka Fat Albert, needs to be aircraft commander qualified with 1,200 flight hours. There are a few other people on the team ranging from maintenance, administration, aviation medicine, pr and some support positions.

As you can imagine, they're all incredibly skilled pilots. The team today looks a little different from what it was when the exhibition team was started in 1946 by Admiral Chester Nimitiz, the Chief of Naval Operations. At that time there were only four planes, which then expanded to six planes in order to showcase the traditional "diamond" (you see this in the video) and other skills. Though they have gone through 10 different types of planes, the current team flies Boeing F/A-18 A/B Hornets and the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. Before you complain about the cost of using military budgets to create show teams, the F-18s used in the show are at the end of their carrier arrestment functionality. When the Blue Angels get them, the planes get a new paint job (the classic yellow and blue) and a few modifications (lose the nose cannon, add a smoke-fluid system, invert a fuel pump, install a stopwatch and an adjustable constant-tension stick spring.)1961 Blue Angels (Courtesy of

If you're curious, some of the other planes were various modifications on the F6 Hellcat, F8 Bearcat, F9 Cougar, F-11 Tiger, F-4 Phantom, and A-4 Skyhawk. The switchover to the current plane happened in 1986 and the current transition is to the F/A-18 Hornet C/D. They also have a whole host of support aircraft ranging from an R4D Skytrain in the 50s to the Hercules.

All of that background brings us to the video below. If you haven't seen a Blue Angels show (or haven't seen it from the cockpit) this video depicts just how calm and collected (for most of the video) the pilots are. You also get a good reference for how tightly they're flying in formation and how skilled these pilots are. Personally, I like the one chewing gum.

(I apologize in advance for the music, but the video is really interesting.)


The team featured in the video includes: Navy Cmdr. Tom Frosch, 43, of Clinton Township, Mich.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Hiltz, 34, of Fort Mitchell, Ky.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Barton, 33, of Hummelstown, Pa.
Marine Major Brandon Cordill, 33, of Hemet, Calif.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. David Tickle, 32, of Birmingham, Ala.
Navy Lt. Mark Tedrow, 31, of Charleroi, Penn.

Passenger : LCDR Jim Hiltz, USCG
Editing and Post : Michael Ashton


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