Navy Blue Angels: Aircraft 4 Is Missing; Formations Remain Spectacular

When a pilot crashes with his aircraft, the reasons can take months and even years to determine.  When man fails without his machine, the history of mankind tells us the reasons swiftly sometimes….

By Lindsay Kastner
San Antonio Press – News

An afternoon performance by the Navy’s Blue Angels was a crowd-pleaser even though the six-jet squadron flew only five planes Saturday, after two team members were removed from duty last week.

The team members, including one pilot, were removed from duty Oct. 26 after allegations of an inappropriate relationship, Blue Angels spokesman Marine Capt. Tyson Dunkelberger confirmed.

Members of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels precision flying team perform ...

Several spectators at the AirFest 2008, part of a weeklong San Antonio salute to the military, said they noticed the show was down a plane, but were unfazed by the absence. Jet number four was clearly missing from the team’s formations.

Mario and Sylvia Perez said they loved Saturday’s show despite the missing plane.

“He kept on asking, ‘Where’s the sixth one? Where’s the sixth one?’” Sylvia Perez said.

Chuck Pollack also noted the vacancy on the team, but wondered if it was combat-related.

“I thought it was perfect the way they were flying,” said Pollack, who last saw the Blue Angels perform four or five years ago.

With just five jets, some formations were changed — for instance the jets flew in a letter V shape instead of their hallmark diamond or delta formation, Dunkleberger said. There are no backup pilots who can step in when one of the Blue Angels is unable to fly, according to the team’s website.

The Blue Angels also flew what is called a “low show” instead of their preferred “high show” Saturday, which limits some maneuvers the pilots can perform. But Dunkleberger said that was a safety decision that had nothing to do with the removal of the two team members.

“The low show was just due to the cloud level today,” he said.

Dunkelberger said the team commonly practices with fewer than six planes and is ready to perform without its full complement of jets.

“That was pretty good, fun, air show as far as I was concerned,” he said, of the demonstration.

Many in the crowd agreed.

“It was super,” said spectator Larry Priest. “They put on an awesome show. It wouldn’t make any difference if they had three planes.”

Dunkelberger would not release the names of the individuals — a male and a female — who are no longer participating in team duties.

“It’s a privacy thing for those individuals,” he said. “It’s administrative in nature, not judicial.”

In addition to flying, the Blue Angels visit schools and hospitals as they tour.

“We have additional people that can fill those roles,” Dunkelberger said, noting that the team also includes C-135 pilots who step in when jet pilots aren’t available.

He said he did not know how long the members might be off the team, saying that has not been determined yet.

“They’ve basically just been relieved of their duties at this point.”

The Blue Angels perform again today at Lackland AFB’s Kelly Field Annex, where AirFest 2008 continues. Their 2008 season ends Nov. 15 after shows at the Kennedy Space Center and at their home base in Pensacola, Fla.

Related:

Navy Blue Angels Flying Today; As In War, Operations Continue Despite Any Setback

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