First Blue Angels F/A-18C Has Arrived At The National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center

The F/A-18C of the Blue Angels taxies over at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. (Smithsonian Photo by Jim Preston)

One of the Blue Angels “Legacy” F/A-18C Hornet has joined the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.

On Nov. 18, 2020, an F/A-18C of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, piloted by Cmdr. Frank Weisser, landed at Washington Dulles Airport and taxied to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, where it is going to be put on display after preparation work. It’s the first “Blue Angels” aircraft and the first F-18 the museum has acquired.

The aircraft, BuNo 163439, is one of the first C models build, delivered to the U.S. Navy in 1987. It flew with eight squadrons, including Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 during Operation Desert Storm, in 1991, before being turned over to the Blue Angels in 2015. It was retired after flying the final formation flight with the team on Nov. 4, 2020. The team is in fact transitioning to the newer, larger Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for the 2021 flight demonstration season.

As reported in a previous article, 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 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 U.S. Navy Blue Angel F/A-18C Hornet, piloted by Cmdr. Frank Weisser, arrives at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, Nov. 19, 2020. Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is accessioning this aircraft into the collection. It was retired by the Navy at the end of the 2020 season as the demonstration team moves to the larger Super Hornet. This specific airplane flew with eight squadrons (including Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 during Operation Desert Storm, the First Gulf War, in 1991) before being turned over to the Blue Angels in 2015. (Smithsonian Photo by Jim Preston)

The landing of the Blue Angels C model at Dulles Airport was filmed air-to-air. Here’s the footage released by WUSA9:

“After 34 years of service to the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, it is incredible this aircraft has the opportunity to live a second life on display at the Smithsonian for generations to come”, said Lt. Brian Abe, maintenance officer for the Blue Angels in a NASM release. “In preparation for display, the Blue Angels maintenance team will continue to work with the museum and other Navy entities to ensure the aircraft is safe for public viewing.”

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.