Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Blues and the 'Birds

The Jets
The Pilots
Since I was a little boy, the US Navy Blue Angels (the Blues) and the US Air Force Thunderbirds (the 'Birds) have always fascinated and thrilled me. The top photo, for those who didn't think much about it, is actually a collection of model aircraft. Very well-done model aircraft done by a fellow named Dan Hamilton (yes, there's more at that link).

When I stumbled across that photo on Google Images (which can be both your best friend and your worst enemy depending on your search terms) I was very impressed. Because these are all of the jets which both teams have flown over the years. But I want to make note of two things here, and one's kind of a technicality.

First, note that I said jets and not the more generic aircraft. The Blues started in the F6F Hellcat and also flew the F8F Bearcat, whereas the Thunderbirds were jet-propelled from Day One of their existence. And I'm not just pointing that out to keep Buck happy. Well, maybe a little, just being historically accurate.

Second (the technicality) the Blues have flown two versions of the Hornet (not counting the two-seater 
Public Relations bird), the F/A-18A and currently the F/A-18C.  The Thunderbirds have flown two versions of the F-16 (again not counting the PR birds), the F-16A and the F-16C. (And in reality there are multiple versions of those aircraft depending on which Block you're talking about. The Falcon was after my flightline days so I'm not what you'd call an expert on that.) Also note that I'm not counting both Teams' C-130 support aircraft. Though they are sometimes part of the show. Particularly "Fat Albert" of the Blues. I've seen that, haven't seen the 'Birds version that I can recall.

Now I had thought to save this post for the Friday Flyby, but I already have something plotted planned for that. Besides which, the aircraft of both teams are so beautiful. I couldn't wait until Friday to share them.

Oh, the Blue Angel's bird will always be shown first. One, because the Blues are the Senior Team and two, because they were first in my affections. Notwithstanding my 24 years wearing Air Force blue. Mostly because a Blue Angel pilot made a very BIG impression on a very young boy back in the day.

The Blue Angels over the years:
  • F6F Hellcat 1946
  • F8F Bearcat 1946 - 1949
  • F9F-2 Panther 1949 - 1950
  • F9F-5 Panther 1951 - 1955
  • F9F-8 Cougar 1955 - 1957
  • F11F-1 Tiger 1957 - 1968
  • F-4J Phantom II 1969 - 1974
  • A-4F Skyhawk II 1974 - 1986
  • F/A-18 Hornet A/B 1986 - 2010
  • F/A-18 Hornet C/D 2011 - Present
The Thunderbirds over the years:
  • F-84G Thunderjet 1953 - 1954
  • F-84F Thunderstreak 1955 - 1956
  • F-100 Super Sabre 1956 - 1968 (See below)
  • F-105B Thunderchief 1964 (Six shows only)*
  • F-4E Phantom II 1969 - 1973
  • T-38A Talon 1974 - 1981
  • F-16A Falcon 1983 - 1991
  • F-16C Falcon 1992 - Present

F8F Bearcat

F9F Panther
(F9F-2 and F9F-5)

F-84G Thunderjet

F9F-8 Cougar

F-84F Thunderstreak

F11F-1 Tiger
(They were flying these my first time.)

F-100 Super Sabre
(They were flying these my first time.)

F-4J Phantom II

F-4E Phantom II

A-4F Skyhawk II

T-38A Talon

F/A-18 Hornet

F-16 Falcon

(Cheesy music alert, but the flying is sweet!)

*When structural failure of his F-105 in a pitch-up for
landing resulted in the death of Capt. Gene Devlin.


  1. The F-105 could have really been a performer with the Thunderbirds...until that one came apart during their first (and only) season using them.

    1. Seeing six Thuds blasting through the skies in formation. Now that would have been an awesome sight!

  2. Very interesting comparison. Love seeing that there is camaraderie among the pilots. My buddies in the AF (in the 1N AFSCs) and us Navy guys usually enjoyed working together.

    1. I've always played well with others. I have a special fondness for Marines, the South Korean Army and the Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch). I have gotten "in my cups" with members of all three of those units. In vino veritas!

  3. Great post and the cheesy music wasn't THAT cheesy compared to some other stuff I've seen.

    Ya done good.


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