The US Navy has a multi-jet display team of on-duty fighter pilots and support staff who currently fly six Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet jets in formation plus dance with a Lockheed C-130J Hercules turboprop called “Fat Albert” not just to recruit youth to the US Navy but to retain sailors and inspire airshow audiences. The Blue Angels go to many airshows in the United States and sparingly foreign airshows.


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Major Katie Higgins Cook Briefing A Reporter About the Blues In Front of

Major Katie Higgins Cook, the first female pilot for the Blue Angels working with Morgan Palmer of KIRO to tell the Blues’ story.

Photo: Joe Kunzler

No guide to the Blue Angels can begin without stating the organization’s mission on their website:

“The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps through flight demonstrations and community outreach while inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country.”

Born to publicize naval aviation

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Blues Dusting the Boats

The Blue Angels want to keep naval aviation in the public eye, as this photo taken from a Waterways boat shows.

Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying

The Blue Angels, according to First Blue: The Story of World War II Ace Butch Voris and the Creation of the Blue Angels by Robert K. Wilcox, were created in 1946 after World War II to keep naval aviation in the public eye. Remember, this was before social media, the Top Gun movie franchise, and such. The idea was originally from Commander Leroy “Roy” Simpler who, commanding VF-5 on USS Saratoga during World War II and in the Navy’s Office of Information, worried about publicity, recruitment, and retention of naval aviation personnel and funds.

The idea was taken to Admiral Nimitz, who worked with other admirals to stand up “a flight exhibition team be organized with the Naval Air Advanced Training Command.” According to First Blue, the idea was to keep the group low visibility in case the effort was a flub.

Instead, today, the Blue Angels remain part of the Naval Air Training Command and are the US Navy’s ambassadors in blue. Some continue this outreach past their service as either full-time or part-time professional speakers, such as John Foley and US Marine Corps Reserve Major Katie Higgins Cook.

Furthermore, as Major Dusty Lee Cook asked the author when he was with another outlet and other media passengers after he took the author up on Fat Albert on July 31, 2015,

The funny part is you all come here to talk to us, but you got people who have just as great stories as well. They may be your neighbor, please, so get out there and help spread their word, that’s all I’m here for.

First Blue Angel begins the concept

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Butch Voris_and_1st_Blue_Angel_team_1946

The first Blue Angel Flight Demonstration Squadron, 1946–1947 (l to r): Lt. Al Taddeo, Solo; Lt. (J.G.) Gale Stouse, Spare; Lt. Cdr. R.M. “Butch” Voris, Flight Leader; Lt. Maurice “Wick” Wickendoll, Right Wing; Lt. Mel Cassidy, Left Wing.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The first commanding officer – Lt. Commander Butch Voris – would stand up the team with clear expectations for performance and conduct. It helped when not just the Blue Angels are the Navy’s Ambassadors, but the Blue Angels, in the words of Voris in First Blue,

“I wanted the show to be short, tight, and close to the crowd. It needed to be impactual [to the audience] on a gut level.”

Yet this would require taking airplanes to the edge of their performance envelope over the decades, down low and sometimes in close formation. For Butch Voris…

“I was never bothered by risk. … Seizing opportunity is intellectual integrity. To do things better is to attempt to be good. I’ve always stuck it out ten percent more. That’s how we make progress.”

Today’s Blue Angels continue this tradition and now inspire their fellow American to do the same. The author would encourage you to read First Blue by Robert K. Wilcox and watch Blue Angel Phantoms on YouTube for starters.

Have you been inspired by the Blue Angels? Please let us know in the comments.


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