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Pierre de Fermor May 30th 2011, 05:35 PM

Safety concerns shake up Blue Angels

by Joel Siegfried on The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, known as the Blue Angels, have been restricted to their home base at Naval Air Station Pensacola (NPA), for more training and air show demonstration practice, as the result of a low maneuver considered dangerous by a safety review panel, according to reports in The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle, ABC News, KING5 Seattle, and other media outlets published on Friday, May 27, 2011. An announcement from Naval Air Station North Island (NZY) in Coronado, CA, briefly stated that "Rear Admiral Bill Sizemore had relieved Commander Dave Koss, Commanding Officer of the Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron on Friday, May 27, at his request following a lower than normal maneuver during the team’s last performance at the Lynchburg Regional Air Show May 22." That low maneuver is shown in the attached video clip and slide show accompanying this report. For any naval officer, being relieved of a command can be the end of a promising military career. In stepping down, Commander Koss apologized for his actions saying, "It is with deep personal regret that I will be voluntarily leaving the greatest flight demonstration team. I performed a maneuver that had an unacceptably low minimum altitude. This maneuver, combined with other instances of not meeting the airborne standard that makes the Blue Angels the exceptional organization that it is, led to my decision to step down." Commander Koss will be replaced by Navy Captain Greg McWherter, who previously commanded the team before Koss assumed that position in November 2010. Several air shows, including a fly over at the US Naval Academy graduation, have been canceled while the team and its new leader conduct practice flights. Other scrapped shows include the Rockford Airfest, June 4-5, and the Evansville Freedom Festival Air Show on June 11-12. The former Blue Angels Commanding Officer graduated from the United States Naval Academy (USNA) in 1991, and had more than 3,000 flight hours including 740 arrested landings on aircraft carriers. The Blue Angels are composed of Navy and Marine Corps aviators who performs before an estimated 11 million people each year, and serve as an important public relations and recruiting tool. Team members each have about 10 years of military flying experience, and average 33 years in age. A typical Blue Angels show includes four McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet tactical jet aircraft flown as close as 18 inches apart, plus two solo aircraft. The lowest maneuver, called a "sneak pass", is flown by one of the solo aircraft just 50 feet off the deck. As recently as 2007, the Demonstration Team was involved in a fatal accident at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, South Carolina. In 2004, a Blue Angels pilot ejected safely when his F/A-18 hit the water near Pensacola, FL. The decision to pull the plug on Commander Koss was probably based on safety concerns over preventing another serious incident. Continue reading on Safety concerns shake up Blue Angels - National Airlines/Airport |


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