By Navy Cmdr. Michael Escobar
DCMA AIMO St. Augustine
The Navy’s Blue Angels are getting new aircraft for 2021, the team’s 75th anniversary season. The advanced planes, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, will replace older legacy Hornets, which have performed in front of millions of people for over 34 years.
This transition is being accomplished with support of the Defense Contract Management Agency.
The Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels’ official title, decided in 2018 to transition the team to the Super Hornet, the Navy’s current carrier-based multirole fighter aircraft. The two-year effort required a contract with Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, to convert combat-capable Super Hornets to the “show ponies” the Navy requires. The work is being performed at the contractor’s facility here with DCMA’s Aircraft Integrated Maintenance Operations’ St. Augustine office conducting contract oversight on behalf of the Navy.
In order to convert a combat-capable Block 1 Lot 21-25 Super Hornet into what the Navy is calling the “Super Blue” demonstration jet, Boeing has to complete several structural and electrical modifications, as well as numerous inspections. Modifications include the installation of an oil tank and ballast located in the nose of the aircraft, the associated plumbing to the engine exhaust in order to produce the signature smoke trail, the installation of clear windshield and canopy glass to help with pilot visibility, inverted fuel pumps to facilitate extended inverted flight, and the addition of a tension spring to the pilot control stick to help Blue Angel pilots keep their extremely precise formation positions.
In addition to overseeing the maintenance actions, DCMA AIMO - St. Augustine pilots are tasked with flying the newly-modified aircraft to ensure the Blue Angels receive the high-quality product they require.
“It’s an honor to be the first pilot to fly the new iconic blue and gold jet and ensure the Blue Angels are getting the best jets which are ready to put on a show,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Davin O’Brien, previously a DCMA government flight representative for the facility. O’Brien retired from active duty earlier this year, replaced by Navy Cmdr. Michael Escobar, who recently delivered the fourth Super Blue to the Angels at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The squadron will receive most of its complement of 11 new jets by the end of this year.
“Acquiring our first Super Hornet is a momentous step in our inevitable transition scheduled for later this year, and it required a herculean effort to get these fleet jets ready for our team,” said Navy Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels.
Navy Capt. Jeff Carty, DCMA AIMO commander, agrees.
“Amid COVID restrictions, I’m very impressed with how the AIMO - St. Augustine team at Cecil Field has innovated and maintained a successful relationship with the contractor to ensure delivery of quality, flight-ready aircraft to our Blue Angels customer,” said Carty. “When you and your family see the Blue Angels perform next year, you can be proud that the DCMA team had an integral part in their production, and is playing an essential role in the recruitment of the next generation Navy sailors.”
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