The Navy’s Blue Angels will conduct their final flight in the legacy F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet Wednesday.
The flight, which will take off from and land at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, marks the end of the F/A-18 A/B/C/D platform’s 34 years as the Blue Angels' aircraft as the team transitions to F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets.
The move to the Super Hornet will mark the first time the elite Navy and Marine Corps demonstration team has changed aircraft since it moved from the A-4F Skyhawk II to the Hornet back in 1986.
“We are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to salute those teams who have flown, maintained and supported this platform for over three decades of service,” said Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, the Blue Angels' commanding officer and flight leader, in a news release. “We deeply appreciate the expertise and operational knowledge Blue Angels past and present have brought to the team and we look forward to enhancing our operations as we fully transition to flying the Super Hornet.”
In addition to being the Super Hornet’s first show season with the team, 2021 will mark the Blue Angels' 75th anniversary. Since its formation, the team has flown in front of more than 500 million spectators around the world as “ambassadors of goodwill.”
“Undoubtedly, 2020 presented the team with unprecedented challenges. That said, the unique nature of this year also allowed our team to deepen our interaction with past teams, in particular, those teams that transitioned to new aircraft during their tenure,” said Kesselring. “This engagement has helped us lay the foundation for a safe and effective transition for our team’s pilots, support, and maintenance personnel as well as postured us to take on the high operating tempo of the team’s highly anticipated 2021 air show season and 75th anniversary.”
Wednesday’s flight, beginning at 4:00 p.m. CST is expected to last approximately 30 minutes, with the Blue Angels flying over locations including Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Ferry Pass, Navarre Beach, Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key, Community Maritime Park, and Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola.
The team encourages spectators to come out and watch while remaining mindful of the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
The Blue Angels will begin their scheduled winter training syllabus Nov. 16, the news release stated. Stationed in Pensacola only for the show season, team members will begin their move to winter training facilities in El Centro, California, in January, remaining there until show season begins in April.