Tag Archives: Blue Angels

Has A Drone Interfered With Blue Angels Display At Seafair Airshow Over Lake Washington?

Several people have spotted a drone apparently too close to the U.S. Navy display team’s F/A-18 Hornets.

On Aug. 4, 2017, the Blue Angels took part in Seafair Airshow over Lake Washington.

Along with the usual stunning aerobatics, people who were watching the Blue Angels on the Mercer Island side of the I-90 bridge over Lake Washington noticed a drone seemingly flying dangerously close to the aircraft. Among them, there was John Redifer, a reader of The Aviationist, who also filmed the clip that you can see here below.

“I was watching the Blue Angels air show yesterday on Friday 8/4/17 on the Mercer Island side of the I-90 bridge over Lake Washington, when a drone appeared in the flight path before the Blue Angels flew by. The drone appeared to be within 50′ of the Blue Angels,” said Redifer in an email to The Aviationist.

“There were about 1,000 people on the bridge with me, including about 12 WSP officers who were there for crowd control. Some people commented on the drone, and WSP officers were pointing at it and appeared to comment on their radios about it.”

The drone remained in the area for about 5 – 10 minutes, maybe even more. For sure it was still there when Redifer left the bridge at the end of the Blue Angels show.

A drone like the one (barely visible) in the short clip below has been spotted in the neighborhood in the past; for this reason Redifer believes it might be a local.

“Also a friend of mine at another nearby location during the show heard about the drone on a public Blue Angels radio conversation of the pilots who mentioned seeing the drone. Not sure of the words used, but she said the pilots were aware of the drone.”

Therefore, based on the footage and the account provided by John Redifer, it looks like a drone was airborne in the vicinity of the Blue Angels display area over/near Mercer Island.

Although we can’t completely rule out the possibility that the drone was cleared to operate there, it seems quite unlikely (if not impossible, considered the risk of interfering with the manned aircraft) that someone got the permission to fly so close to the display area. Actually, the video does not help in determining the actual position of the remotely piloted aircraft, however, based on the witnesses accounts, it is safe to say it appears to be closer than one might expect in case of an airshow: in fact, drones or helicopters that film airshows operate from a significant distance, leveraging powerful onboard sensors to feed a live stream of the aircraft performing their aerobatic maneuvers while remaining well outside the display area.

If you were there and have seen the drone let us know in the comments section below or by sending us an email.

For instance, recent airshows in Italy were filmed from high altitude by an Italian Air Force Predator drone, under positive radio and radar contact with the relevant ATC agencies, maintaining a racetrack located kilometers away from the airshow area.

Incidentally, the video emerged in the same days the Pentagon has cleared U.S. military bases across the country to shoot down drones if those drones become a hazard to flight operations or a security risk and the U.S. Navy claimed an Iranian UAV had unsafe and unprofessional interaction with an F/A-18E about to land on USS Nimitz.

H/T to John Redifer for sending us the clip and details about the alleged near miss.

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Blue Angels F/A-18s Make Contact And “Swap Paint” During Flyover: Pilots Land Aircraft Safely.

Joint Flyover Last Wednesday With USAF Thunderbirds Nearly Ends in Disaster.

A rare joint flyover last Wednesday, Apr. 26, with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds nearly ended in calamity when two of the Blue Angels’ F/A-18 Hornets momentarily touched while flying in formation causing minor damage to both aircraft. The two aircraft landed without incident following the collision.

According to a statement released by U.S. Navy Blue Angels spokesperson Lt. Joe Hontz and published in the Navy Times, “Two of the jets in the Blue Angel Delta formation encountered unexpected wake turbulence,” Hontz said, “causing a very brief and minor contact between the aircraft.”

The Blue Angels’ Boeing F/A-18 Hornet aircraft were flying in the six aircraft “delta” formation, an arrowhead arrangement of the four aircraft diamond formation combined with the two solo aircraft flying in outer trailing positions of the four-plane diamond.

Blue Angel Solos perform an opposing pass.

The Navy Times reported that Lt. Hontz said, “It is a testament to the training of the pilots that this incident remained very benign. The Blue Angels train in an environment where they fly extremely close — inches away from one another — and are fully prepared to respond and recover should minor contact occur.”

Even a small contact between two combat jets may have catastrophic consequences considered the velocities and energy involved.

An unnamed spokesperson added, “The aircraft required minor maintenance following the ‘paint-swap’ but are currently back in service.” The term “paint swap” was coined in American NASCAR stock car racing to describe when two racecars touch and rub paint onto each other from a minor collision.

The two pilots involved in the incident were not named in official press releases but are reported as cleared to continue flying demonstrations. They performed this past weekend during routine flight demonstrations at the MCAS Beaufort Airshow on April 29-30.

This 2017 incident follows an unusual number of precision jet demonstration team accidents from the same period in 2016 when four crashes on four separate jet teams occurred in only seven days. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the Swiss Patrouille Suisse team and the Russian Knights all suffered accidents during this time.

Among these, the crash of a Blue Angel F/A-18 during practice for a weekend airshow, took the life of U.S. Marine Captain Jeff Kuss, the Blue Angel number 6 pilot flying in the solo position. An official accident investigation revealed that Capt. Kuss, a highly-experienced FA-18 pilot, had “transitioned from the high-performance climb to the Split S [maneuver] too low and too fast, and by not deselecting his afterburners during the maneuver, he continued to accelerate. The net effect of these deviations was that the aircraft was simply too low and too fast to avoid impacting the ground.”

Hopefully this reportedly minor incident will be the last similar incident for the 2017 season and we will not see a repeated high frequency of accidents this season.

In our story about the fourth incident, we commented: “What’s the odds of four incidents occurring to four display teams in one week? It’s surely an unlucky period.”

Popular Mechanics aviation journalist Kyle Mizokami wrote about the 2016 incidents, “The timing of the four [2016] crashes, all within a seven-day period and two days with two apiece, is a wildly improbable coincidence.”

Update: here’s a video allegedly showing the moment of contact and the “break” between the aircraft: https://www.facebook.com/tim.tisdale.9/videos/10154774271204825/

Image credit: Tom Demerly. Top image shows the U.S. Navy Blue Angels in the “Delta” six-aircraft formation (file photo)

The Blue Angels Rehearsing For New Airshow Season Now. Here is an Insider’s Look at Practice.

U.S. Navy Blue Angels Train for Upcoming 2017 Show Season: Integrate New Members

One of the world’s oldest and most famous flight demonstration teams, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, are preparing for a busy airshow flight demonstration season in 2017 at their winter practice airfield at Naval Air Station El Centro, California.

The Blue Angels were formed in 1946 following WWII as a public relations and recruiting tool to inspire airshow crowds to pursue excellence in all of their endeavors and as a recruiting asset to attract potential candidates to join the U.S. Navy. They are the second oldest flight demonstration team in the world behind the French team Patrouille de France that began flying demonstrations in 1931.

The Blue Angels are largely responsible for the format of the modern airshow with a large demonstration team headlining a supporting cast of aerial demonstrations and on-the-ground static displays of aircraft. Their shows have helped create a culture of airshow fans, aviation enthusiasts and aircraft spotters as well as being a recruiting asset.

For the upcoming 2017 flight demonstration season the Blue Angels will perform at an impressive 35 airshows including one flyover for the U.S. Naval Academy graduation at Annapolis, Maryland and one show weekend still to be determined. Their schedule includes approximately 64 total flight demonstrations, usually at least two per weekend in addition to practices and public appearances.

Blue Angels taxiing in front of photographers (image credit: Author).

The Blue Angels fly an older version of the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet. They are scheduled to move to the newer Super Hornet in 2018. Their current F/A-18’s are legacy aircraft, among the oldest flying. They are modified for airshow performances with a second jet fuel pump mounted upside down in the aircraft for extended flying inverted in formation and during solo maneuvers. A normally equipped FA-18 Hornet could not maintain inverted flight as long as the modified Blue Angels’ aircraft.

The team’s trademark high-gloss dark blue and gold paint reduces aerodynamic drag since it has lower friction than the matt low-visibility paint schemes used in combat aircraft. This gloss paint produces better performance, especially at low altitude. The high contrast graphics on the aircraft are arranged to improve visibility in all-weather conditions for spectators and photographers and to enable people to tell the bottom of the aircraft from the top easily during rolling maneuvers.

The demonstration aircraft carry no armament. Their cannons have been removed and replaced with a reservoir containing bio-degradable paraffin fluid that is released into the aircraft’s exhaust plume to produce the smoke trail you see behind the aircraft. The smoke is not only important to enable spectators to follow the aircraft during an airshow, it also allows the pilots to see each other during re-joining maneuvers when the two solo aircraft rejoin the four aircraft diamond formation toward the end of their flight demonstration routine.

Flight controls on the Blue Angels’ F/A-18’s have been modified to make formation and inverted flight easier. The flight control stick between the pilots’ legs uses a spring to exert 40-pounds of forward bias force meaning the pilot constantly exerts slight rearward pressure compared to a normal Hornet to maintain level flight. While this unusual modification makes the aircraft physically more work to keep in a level flight attitude it makes the flight controls feel more “positive” throughout the control envelope.

Finally, unlike the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the Blue Angels do not wear G-suits in their cockpits. The pilots are conditioned to perform the “AGSM” or anti-G straining maneuver to resist g-forces during high performance maneuvers such as the maximum performance turn performed at low altitude.

Video and photos of the Blue Angels latest practice sessions at NAS El Centro provide a fascinating insight into the team’s preparation for the 2017 show season.

The early season practices are sometimes being flown with a unique configuration of Blue Angels’ aircraft, different from the show formation. This video shows two of the two-seat F/A-18D aircraft both carrying the #7 Opposing Solo aircraft markings.

During an operational show the #7 Opposing Solo markings are worn by a single- seat F/A-18C. The appearance of two #7’s during rehearsal may be due to maintenance availability of the aircraft or for training reasons.

t is unusual to see two #7 aircraft flying formation with the Blue Angels. This configuration is likely for crew orientation and practice (screenshot from spencerhughes2255’s YT video)

Another interesting insight with the practice sessions is the somewhat greater interval between aircraft flying formation during the pre-season. The incredibly close overlapping diamond formation is a spectacular trademark of the Blue Angels. Presumably demonstration pilots begin show practice at slightly wider flying intervals to familiarize themselves with the visual cues needed to maintain close demonstration formation flying.

In mid-July 2016 The Blue Angels announced the addition of several new members to the team. Three of the new team members are demonstration pilots. The new Blue Angel demo pilots are:

Navy Lt. Brandon Hempler, 32, of Wamego, Kansas.
Lt. Hempler is an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot formerly assigned to Training Squadron (VT) 22, the “Golden Eagles,” at NAS Kingsville, Texas. He is a 2007 graduate of Kansas State University, Salina, Kansas.

Navy Lt. Damon Kroes, 34, of Fremont, California.
Lt. Kroes is an F/A-18 Hornet instructor pilot formerly assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101, the “Sharpshooters,” at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. He is a 2006 graduate of San Diego State University, San Diego.

Navy Lt. Nate Scott, 31, of Danville, California.
Lt. Scott is an F/A-18 Hornet instructor pilot currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106, the “Gladiators,” at NAS Oceana, Virginia. He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

The integration of these new members into the team continues into the 2017 season. Navy Lt. Lance Benson, 33, of McPherson, Kansas; Navy Lt. Tyler Davies, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia and Navy Cmdr. Frank Weisser, 38, of Atlanta, Georgia continue as Blue Angel demonstration pilots for 2017 from the 2016 season.

The Blue Angels 2016 season was marred early on when Capt. Jeff Kuss of Durango, Colorado, Blue Angel #6, Opposing Solo, died in an accident on June 2, 2016 in Smyrna, Tennessee during Friday airshow practice. He had been a member of the team since September 2014 and had over 1400 flight hours and 175 arrested landings on an aircraft carrier. The accident occurred during a low-altitude “Split S” maneuver that was subsequently removed from the Blue Angels flight demonstration routine. The maneuver may return for the 2017 season pending review.

For information about Blue Angel flight demonstrations, their locations and dates please visit: https://www.blueangels.navy.mil

 

Patrouille Suisse jet crashes after collision at Leeuwarden airbase. Fourth incident in one week

Unbelievable coincidence. It’s the fourth incident to a military aerobatic display team in one week, the second today!

On Jun. 9, two Swiss Air Force F-5 belonging to the Patrouille Suisse aerobatic display team collided during a practice display at Leeuwarden air base, in the Netherlands.

One of the Tiger jets managed to land in spite of the damages whereas the other aircraft crashed: fortunately, the pilot was able to eject from the plane suffering only few cuts and bruises.

It’s the first serious incident in the history of the Swiss team, founded in 1964.

What makes the incident somehow shocking is that it occurred on the same day a Su-27 Flanker of the Russian Knights crashed in Russia causing the death of its pilot and one week after two almost simultaneous incidents to the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels: on Jun. 2, a Thunderbirds F-16 crashed near Colorado Springs with the pilot successful ejecting from the aircraft and, a few hours later on the same day Blue Angels Opposing Solo crashed during a display practice in Tennessee, killing the pilot, USMC Capt. Jeff Kuss.

What’s the odds of four incidents occurring to four display teams in one week? It’s surely an unlucky period.

The Aviationist’s contributor Jacek Siminski was at Leeuwarden today and took the above image of the second F-5 about to land at Leeuwarden with a damaged horizontal stabilizer.

New video shows Blue Angel #6 crashing in Smyrna, Tennessee

A new video that appears to show the Blue Angels crash in Tennessee has been posted online.

A new video uploaded to Youtube yesterday seems to show the deadly crash that killed Capt. Jeff Kuss, Blue Angel #6 during a practice flight at the Smyrna Airport, Tennessee, on Jun. 2.

The clip shows the Lead and Opposing solo depart: whilst the #5 performs the dirty roll, the #6 performs a low transition and at 285 KCAS he pulls to 70 degrees nose up. According to the Blue Angels Maneuvers Manual at a minimum of 3,500 feet, he would roll the aircraft 180 degrees and complete a Split S reversal.

The footage shows the doomed Hornet almost leveling off at the end of the maneuver beyond the trees before a smoke and fireball is caused by the impact with the ground.

Did the pilot reach the required 3,500 feet? Did something else fail? Did the pilot suffer a G-LOC (G-force induced Loss of consciousness)?

The video does not help answering those questions, still it provides some new details about the deadly crash.

H/T to our pal Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone for posting the video.

 

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