Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Little Yimme from FL. Little Yimme Wonders, “Are the Blue Angels made different from other planes?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Little Yimme!
What's that…way up there in the sky? Is it a superhero? Could it be a bird? If you're lucky, it might be a squadron of blue fighter jets completing some daring maneuvers. What are we talking about? The Blue Angels, of course!
Officially known as the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels squadron was established in 1946 by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Chief of Naval Operations. The mission of the squadron is "to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach."
The "Blue Angels" nickname was chosen by the original squadron members. While preparing for a flight demonstration in New York City, a squadron member read about the famous Blue Angel nightclub in the New Yorker magazine. And the rest, as they say, is history…
Based in Florida at Pensacola Naval Air Station, the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets flown by the squadron are painted the Navy's traditional vivid blue and gold colors. Each year, the men and women of the Blue Angels perform flight demonstrations and community outreach programs in dozens of cities around the country.
The Blue Angels pilots are usually considered "the best of the best" that the Navy and Marine Corps have to offer. The pilots that fly the jets in tight formations perform a variety of daring maneuvers that amaze the crowds that gather to watch them. The Navy estimates that as many as 15 million people view Blue Angels flight demonstrations each year.
What can you expect to see at a Blue Angels show? How about fighter jets flying as high as 15,000 feet and as low as 50 feet above the ground? In the Diamond 360 formation, the pilots fly their jets as close as 18 inches apart. Top speeds during exhibitions can approach 700 miles per hour, which is almost the speed of sound, known as Mach 1.
Fighter jets aren't the only thing you'll see, though. The Blue Angels squadron also uses a cargo plane to transport equipment between cities. Currently, this cargo plane is a humongous C-130 Hercules aircraft lovingly nicknamed "Fat Albert." It also takes part in demonstrations and crowds always love to see this behemoth take to the skies.
During flight demonstrations, you can easily keep track of the $21 million F/A-18 Hornets by the trails of smoke they leave behind in the sky. These trails of smoke are produced by pumping biodegradable, paraffin-based oil into the exhaust nozzles of the jets. The heat of the exhaust instantly vaporizes the oil into smoke that helps pilots and spectators keep track of the fast-moving jets.