Blue Angels Team Makes Final Demo Formation Flight Before Switching to Larger Super Hornet.
The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels, flew their final formation flight in the “Legacy” F/A-18C/D Hornet yesterday on Wednesday, November 4, 2020. The team is transitioning to the newer, larger Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for the 2021 flight demonstration season.
The team flew the Boeing F/A-18A single-seat and F/A-18B two-seat Hornet from 1986 until 2010, then transitioned to the F/A-18C single-seat and F/A-18D two-seat Hornet from 2010 until yesterday in 2020. The Blues flew the Hornet for a total of 34 years, longer than any other aircraft in the history of the team. Many current Blue Angels fans have never seen the team fly in any other aircraft. Prior to their 1986 transition to the Hornet, the team flew the A-4 Skyhawk.
The new Boeing F/A-18E single-seat and two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornets are larger, more capable aircraft than the “legacy” Hornet. As we previously reported on TheAviationist.com, the Blue Angels say, “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.”
The bigger F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets have a wingspan that is 4′ 3.6″ wider than the previous Hornet. That is over four-feet more wingspan. This greater wingspan will be visually apparent in Blue Angel demos.
The Super Hornet is also 4′ 3″ longer than the legacy Hornet and sits nearly one-foot higher at the top of its twin tails. These larger dimensions may make the new Blue Angel Super Hornets even easier to see and photograph at flight demos.
The team’s first scheduled demonstration in the new, larger Super Hornets is on April 10-11, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida at the Naval Air Station JAX Air Show.
When we spoke to former Blue Angel’s commander, then-Capt. Eric Doyle, Blue Angel #1, about the transition to the new Super Hornet. Capt. Doyle told TheAviationist.com that, “Our goal is to make it seamless. You’ll see blue jets appear in another year that are Super Hornets, that are going to look a lot like this one. They’re F-18s, so they’re built by Boeing, and the demo will look very similar.”
One difference that may also be apparent to airshow fans with the new, larger, Super Hornets is more thrust. Pilots who have flown both the Hornet and Super Hornet tell TheAviationist.com that sustaining turn-rates and generating acceleration at low altitudes is going to be much easier in the larger, more powerful Super Hornet. This could make the Blue’s demos even more thrilling and dynamic than their previous routines.
Aviation photographers across the web paid tribute to the Blue’s legacy Hornets on Wednesday by posting thousands of photos of the aircraft during the past 34 years. The dark blue and gold livery of the Blue Angels along with the size of the big, twin-engine Hornet made it particularly popular with airshow photographers.
The Blue Angels are one of the only flight demonstration teams in the world to fly full-size, front line, twin-engine combat aircraft. The other teams that fly tactical aircraft of similar size and configuration include the Russian Knights who fly the large, Russian-built, twin-engine Sukhoi Su-30SM and Su-35S, the Royal Malaysian Smoky Bandits, who fly the MiG-29N and MiG-29NUB, The Russian Swifts, who fly the twin-engine MiG-29 and the Ukrainian Falcons who also fly the MiG-29.