Blue Angels: 72 Years of aviation excellence

Blue Angels History

In 1946, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, created a flight exhibition team to raise the public’s interest in naval aviation and boost Navy morale. It began with precision combat maneuvers in the F-6 Hellcat, F-8 Bearcat and F-9 Panther.

During the 1950s, aerobatic maneuvers performed in the F-9 Cougar and F-11 Tiger and the first six-plane delta formation were added. By the end of the 1960s, the Blue Angels were flying the F-4 Phantom. In 1974, the team transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk, a smaller, lighter aircraft with a tighter turning radius. In 1986, at the 40th Anniversary, the F/A-18 Hornet, was unveiled.

In 1949, it became necessary for the Blue Angels to operate a support aircraft to move personnel and equipment between show sites. They included the Douglas R4D Sky Train, the Curtiss R5C Commando, the Douglas R5D Skymaster, and the Lockheed C-121 Super Constellation. In 1970 the team received the Lockheed Martin C-130, affectionately known as “Fat Albert.”

The Blue Angels was the second formal flying demonstration team to have been created since the Patrouille de France formed in 1931.

In response to the Korean Conflict, the Navy disbanded the Blue Angels and the team reported to Fighter Squadron 191 (VF-191), “Satan’s Kittens,” aboard the aircraft carrier USS Princeton in 1950.

That same year on Oct. 25, the Blue Angels reorganized as a flight demonstration team.

On Armed Forces Day in May 1954, the Blue Angels performed for the first time with the Air Force’s newly formed demonstration team, the Thunderbirds.

The Blue Angels’ first Marine Corps pilot, Capt. Chuck Hiett, also joined the team in 1954; and at least one position has been reserved for a Marine ever since.

The Blue Angels gave their first performance outside the U.S. in 1956 – in Canada.

Due to the Cuban Missile Crisis and overcrowding at NAS Key West, beginning in 1963 and lasting until 1966, the Blue Angels held winter training at the Navy’s so-called “Bone Yard” at NAS Litchfield Park, Tucson.

As efforts to integrate women more fully in military service progressed, the Blue Angels selected a young female officer to join the team in October 1968. Lt. Mary Russell reported to the Blue Angels as the assistant public affairs officer, and later worked as the assistant administrative officer. Russell was the first woman ever to serve on the Blue Angels.

At the end of 1969, the team transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II. It was the only aircraft flown by both the Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds.

In 1970, after operating a variety of logistics aircraft, the Blue Angels transitioned to a Marine Corps Lockheed KC-130F Hercules – a tactical transport aircraft. It was operated by an all-Marine crew and affectionately named “Fat Albert.” The team still recruits an all-Marine aircrew to operate its Fat Albert logistics aircraft today, but has upgraded to a Lockheed Martin C-130T Hercules.

On Dec.10, 1973, the Blue Angels flight demonstration team was reorganized and commissioned the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron in a ceremony held at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

In 1978, Aviation Electrician’s Mate Penny Edwards made history when she became the first female enlisted Sailor to join the ranks as a Blue Angels maintenance team member.

The team celebrated another milestone in history in 2015, when Marine Capt. Katie Higgins was selected to pilot the Blue Angels’ Lockheed Martin C-130T Hercules transport aircraft, making her the first female Blue Angels pilot.

Since 1946, the Blue Angels have performed for nearly 500 million fans.

Courtesy of


More Stories From This Author