Since 1946, the Blue Angels squadron, the Navy's world-famous flight demonstration team that calls Pensacola home, has been exciting and surprising audiences with its impressive flight shows. This year, the Blue Angels will have 65 demonstrations in 35 different locations.
People don’t realize that in addition to scheduled performances, the Blue Angels practice most Tuesdays and Wednesdays from March through November. Those sessions are open to public and can be watched from behind the National Naval Aviation Museum. After Wednesday practices, the pilots visit the museum and sometimes sign autographs for visitors.
Here are nine more facts you might not know about Pensacola’s Blue Angels.
- The Blue Angels performed their first demonstration in Jacksonville, Florida, less than a year after World War II ended. After the end of the war, the Chief of Naval Operations was worried no one would remain interested and fund flight demonstrations. Inspired by the acrobatic flights of Patrouille de France, the chief sought a similar method. This led to the birth of the Blue Angels in June 1946. The first plane flown was the Grumman F6F Hellcat, piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Roy “Butch” Voris. Within months of its debut, several techniques were being introduced including the famous “diamond” formation.
- The Blue Angels are the second oldest naval air flight team in the world, and the oldest in the nation.
- A New York nightclub inspired the name of the Blue Angels. The squadron was initially named Navy Flight Exhibition Team, but was later changed when one of the pilots saw the name “Blue Angels” in a nightclub. The colors of the planes also changed over the years. Originally navy blue, the planes were repainted to a lighter shade of blue with yellow lining to make it appear more festive and attractive.
- The Blue Angels temporarily disbanded in 1950. When the Korean War began, the pilots were needed in combat. They returned in 1951 and have been performing ever since.
- The Blue Angels relocated to Pensacola in 1954. The team first started demonstrations in Jacksonville, but moved to Pensacola to be closer to the Naval Air Station.
- A Blue Angels plane can travel at speeds up to 1,400 miles per hour.
- A total of 16 Naval officers voluntarily serve with the Blue Angels, but only six perform during air shows. Each year, the team typically selects three tactical jet pilots, two support officers and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot to perform.
- Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins became the first female Blue Angels pilot in 2014.
- Each Blue Angels plane is valued at $21 million.