The Blue Angels are the US Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron. The squdron is comprised of the best Naval Aviators from the Us Navy and the US Marines. In 1946, Admiral Chester Nimitz ordered the formation of a flight exhibition team to boost morale and to generate public support and serve as a recruiting tool. Rear Admiral Ralph Davison personally selected Lieutenant Commander Roy Marlin "Butch" Voris, a World War II fighter ace, to assemble and train a flight demonstration squadron, naming him Officer-in-Charge and Flight Leader. Voris selected two fellow instructors to join him and the three spent countless hours developing the show. The group perfected its initial maneuvers in secret over the Florida Everglades so that, in Voris' words, "...if anything happened, just the alligators would know." The team's first demonstration before Navy officials took place in May of 1946. On June 15 Voris led three Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats, specially modified to reduce weight and painted sea blue with gold leaf trim, through their inaugural 15-minute-long performance at Craig Field, Florida. The group was known then simply as the "Navy Flight Exhibition Team." According to Voris, he wanted to get the public excited by "...keeping something in front of the crowds at all times. My objective was to beat the Army Air Corps. If we did that, we'd get all the other side issues. I felt that if we weren't the best, it would be my naval career." The Blue Angels' first public demonstration also scored the team its first trophy, which sits on display at the team's current home at NAS Pensacola. In August of 1946 the Blue Angels switched to the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat and introduced the famous "diamond" formation. During a trip to New York, Lt. Wickendoll (one of the three original team members) came across an advertisement in The New Yorker for the city's popular "Blue Angel" nightclub. Voris liked the name and officially made it the team's moniker. The squadron upgraded their aircraft to the F8F-1 Bearcat. They performed until the start of the Korean War in 1950, when (due to a shortage of Naval Aviators) the team was disbanded and its members were ordered to combat duty. Once aboard the aircraft carrier USS Princeton the group formed the core of VF-191 (Satan's Kittens). The Blue Angels were officially recommissioned in October of 1951, and reported to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. Lt. Cdr. Voris was again tasked with assembling the team (he was the first of only two commanding officers to lead them twice). By the end of the 1940s, the Blue Angels were flying their first jets, the Grumman F9F-2 Panther, but soon would be flying the improved F9F-5. The Angels remained in Corpus Christi until the winter of 1954, when they relocated to their present home at NAS Pensacola. Here they progressed to the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 Cougar. The ensuing 20 years saw the Blue Angels transition to two more aircraft, the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger (1957), which would be best known for its use as a demonstration plane, and the huge double-sonic McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II (1969), the only plane to be flown by both the "Blues" and the USAF Thunderbirds. In December of 1974, the Blues downsized to the more economical subsonic McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II and was reorganized into the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. This reorganization permitted the establishment of a commanding officer, a flight leader, added support officers, and further redefined the squadron's mission emphasizing the support of recruiting efforts. Commander Tony Less was the squadron's first official commanding officer. In November of 1986, the Blue Angels completed their 40th anniversary year and unveiled their present aircraft, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The Hornet's power and handling allow the Blues to perform the steep angle of attack "tail sitting" maneuver, and to fly a loop with landing gear down in formation, NEITHER of which can be duplicated by the Thunderbirds. The Blue Angels also operate a Marine Corps C-130T Hercules nicknamed "Fat Albert". Fat Albert provides support and many times puts on a show of its own with a jet-assisted take off (JATO) before the "Blues" begin their demonstration. "Fat Albert Airlines" flies with an all-Marine crew of three officers and five enlisted personnel. The Blue Angels perform more than 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the United States each year, where they still employ many of the same practices and techniques in their aerial displays as in 1946. They execute their demonstration flights by taking voice cues from the flight leader, who uses a sing-song tone in his voice to control the timing of each maneuver. They also manage to stay in VERY TIGHT formation (sometimes only 18" from the aircraft next to them) by using a technique known as "flying paint". They each will literally pick a section of paint on the aircraft next to them and keep their eyes locked onto that bit of paint as they work the stick, rudders and throttle to fly the formation as perfectly as humanly possible. They are truly the world's finest aviators. Each Blue Angel Aviator is a combat-ready flight officer on active duty and can be called up to fly in any conflict anywhere in the world at any time. Each one is carrier-certified and will rotate out of the squadron to make room for the next rookie. The last two photos are of US Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration aviator, Lcdr. Kevin Davis. He was killed April 21, when his Hornet crashed into a residential area outside Beaufort Marine Corps Air Base, South Carolina. The crash took place in the final minutes of the air show as the pilots were doing a maneuver which involved all six planes joining from behind the crowd to form the Delta triangle. In the last photo, his flag-draped casket is carried by Naval Air Station Pensacolas Honor Guard as his fellow Blue Angels salute. Lt. Cmdr. Davis flew as the Blue Angel Number 6, the Opposing Solo.
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