By Hill Goodspeed, Historian, National Naval Aviation Museum
Most people define the Blue Angels by graceful formations soaring in the sky overhead, but life in the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is much more than the time spent in the cockpit or on the flight line. Enjoy the scrapbook of images taken through the years that provides a portrait of the Blue Angels experience.
The 1953 team pictured in front of one of the squadron’s F9F Panthers. Note that the pilots wore standard-issue khaki flight suits and not the specialized flight suits seen today. The individual standing second from left is Dave Scheuer, who for many years served as Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation’s technical representative supporting the team, whose members called him “Grandfather.”
Standing in the cockpits of the team’s F9F Cougars, Commander Zeke Cormier (left foreground), the outgoing flight leader, welcomes Commander Ed Holley, the incoming flight leader, in 1956.
Members of the 1957 Blue Angels gather in the squadron spaces for a briefing on an upcoming air show. Standing at left is Captain Tom Jefferson, who continued the practice begun in 1954 of assigning at least one Marine Corps aviator to the team.
In 2021, the Blue Angels introduced their new demonstration aircraft, the F/A-18E Super Hornet. Back in 1957, the first public performance of the team’s new F11F Tigers at New Castle, Delaware, drew quite a crowd eager to get a close-up look at the new jets.
Lieutenant Mark Perrault signs autographs for young fans during a Blue Angels air show in 1958. He served as the team’s public information officer (PIO), which at the time was a flying billet in the cockpit of the team’s TV-2 Shooting Star.
Providing VIP flights for politicians, sports figures and actors to publicize Naval Aviation has long been part of the mission of the Blue Angels. In this image, actress Janet Leigh sits in the cockpit of an F11F Tiger as she poses for a photo with Commander Zeb Knott, the team’s flight leader, in 1959.
Blue Angels Flight Leader Lieutenant Commander Ken Wallace presents a model of the team’s F11F Tiger to President John F. Kennedy during the Commander in Chief’s visit to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island in 1962. Wallace served two tours with the Blue Angels and was part of the team’s transition from the F-4 Phantom II to the A-4 Skyhawk in 1973-1974.
Lieutenant Dan MacIntyre cuts the cake commemorating the 1,000th flight demonstration performed by the Blue Angels during a ceremony on the flight line at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, on Independence Day in 1963.
Maintenance personnel visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris during the team’s European tour in 1965. A key element of the successful operations of the Blue Angels is the dedicated maintenance personnel who ensure the aircraft are always ready to fly.
The Blue Angels gather with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds in front of their F-4 Phantom II jets. The F-4 was the only jet ever flown concurrently by the two flight demonstration teams. The Blue Angels flight leader that year was Cmdr. Harley Hall (kneeling fourth from the left), who in January 1973 became the last Naval Aviator shot down over North Vietnam. Declared missing in action, his remains were later returned to the United States for burial.
Bob Hope joins the ranks of the Blue Angels for the walk down to their aircraft during an air show celebrating the 75th anniversary of Naval Aviation in 1986. The famed entertainer is the only individual honored with designation as both an Honorary Naval Aviator and Honorary Blue Angel.