Blue Angel Incident Follows Suspension of USAF F-16 Demo Pilot and Tragic Golden Knights Accident.
The U.S. Navy has confirmed that a member of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team has been suspended pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation that began in late January 2019. This announcement continues a disastrous week for U.S. military aviation demo teams.
The news about the U.S. Navy Blue Angels suspension follows the removal of the new USAF F-16 Demo Team pilot, Capt. Zoe Kotnik, earlier this week for unspecified reasons. Capt. Kotnik had occupied the position as lead F-16 demo pilot for only two weeks.
The U.S. Army suffered a serious accident on Monday of this week when three members of the Golden Knights parachute team collided during night time training at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Homestead, Florida. All three of the Golden Knights involved in the accident remain hospitalized, two in critical condition and one serious.
In a story by journalist Carl Prine published on the Navy Times website that broke on Wednesday, February 13, 2019, Navy Lt. Michelle Tucker, spokeswoman for the Chief of Naval Air Training, told the Navy Times that the Blue Angels suspension and subsequent investigation involves unspecified allegations of misconduct that were revealed last month.
The member of the Blue Angels who remains suspended has not been revealed, although the report suggests the person was not a “numbered member” indicating they are likely not one of the flying officers on the team.
Writer Carl Prine quoted Navy spokesperson Lt. Michelle Tucker as saying, “Allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously by the Navy but it would be inappropriate at this time to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
The unnamed Blue Angel team member has been removed from training status pending the outcome of the investigation. The team is currently preparing for the rapidly approaching 2019 airshow season at Naval Air Facility El Centro in Imperial County, California. The first Blue Angels demo is scheduled for March 16-17 at El Centro.
The Blue Angels also reported a training incident on January 22, 2019 when one of their Boeing F/A-18 Hornets had a landing gear malfunction that prevented the aircraft from extending its landing gear. The aircraft managed to land without injury to its crewmember(s) but any damage that may have been sustained by the aircraft has not been revealed.
The Blue Angels are in the final years of flying the Boeing F/A-18A and C/D versions of the Hornet twin-engine tactical jet before transitioning to the larger, more recent F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft as early as 2021 with the first demonstration season for the Blue Angel Super Hornets likely being early 2022.