The Blues April 22, 2007Posted by daveintexas in Current Events, honor.
Yesterday during an air show in Beaufort South Carolina, LCDR Kevin Davis (Number 6) was killed in an accident. His F/A 18 Hornet may have clipped the top of a pine tree while he was flying at low altitude performing with the Blue Angels.
I’ve been privileged to see the Blues perform twice, and have also seen their Air Force counterparts, the Thunderbirds on two other occasions. There is nothing like it. They are the best of the best.
The Blue Angels were quietly established in 1946 by Chief of Naval Operations Chester W. Nimitz (another Texas boy). Their mission was to boost Navy morale, to demonstrate Naval air power, and to maintain public interest in naval aviation. They have been active since, only once in their 60+ year history drawn down during the Korean War due to a shortage of pilots and planes. They were recommissioned in 1951. They are comprised of pilots from the US Navy and the Marines.
The Air Force established their precision flying team, the Thunderbirds, in 1953, and flew their first performance at Luke Air Force Base in Goodyear Arizona. Their shows are thrilling, but it’s also dangerous work, and there have been many losses. Even if shows are in rural areas, there are still crowds of spectators to contend with.
One Air Force pilot, Capt. David Hauck of Mingo Jct. Ohio, crashed his T-38 while attempting to land his ailing aircraft at a show at Hill AFB in Utah in 1981. The ground controller at the show radioed Capt. Hauck, and said “you’re on fire, punch out of there”. But Capt. Hauck replied “hang on, we’ve got a lot of people down there”. He struggled to maintain flight for another half mile, ultimately striking a tree and a barn, erupting into a fireball, but he avoided a large group of people on the other side of the roadway.
It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never seen them perform, just how awesome and thrilling it can be. Complex precision manuevers, fast and low, knife edge passes, the inverted flyovers… it’s just amazing.
Both teams have flown many different types of aircraft. I’ve seen the Thunderbirds in F-16s, and the Blue Angels in the F/A 18s, but I also saw them when I was much younger flying the F-4 Phantom II, a beautiful aircraft. There’s just something awesome about a formation of six Phantoms ripping overhead.
It’s a sad day for the Blue Angels, and for the Navy.