The first shows of the US NAVY aerobatic team were not as those at the present time. In addition to aerobatics and formation they performed something veryinteresting – assault of the Japanese air fighter on an American one, but this becomes a part of the show only since the end of July 1946. The role of the Japanese fighter was originally performed by an SNJ, assaulting the main formation. The “Japanese” fighter attacked the main formation and after the series of aerobatic maneuvers simulating a fight atmosphere the SNJ was “hit” releasing smoke for much more authenticity. After that the pilot of the SNJ released a small parachute which imitated the pilot leaved the falling plane. The show lasted about 17 minutes. The first team had 12 people: ground staff, one commentator and one man who organized the show itself, as well as three representatives of Grumman.
On Aug 25, 1946, the team moved from the original Hellcat to the Grumman F8F Bearcat airplanes. There were five main planes – number 5 was a solo pilot. Then the role of the “enemy” plane was performed by Bearcat which has been painted in the same colors as the original enemy SNJ and received the nickname “Beetle Bomb.”
The first tragedy for the Blue Angels comes on September 29, 1946. While performing individual aerobatic maneuvers, Lieutenant Ross Robinson died. While performing the Cuban Eight maneuver, he dangerously approached ground, accelerated too hard, which caused the tearing of the wing tips.
“On September 29th, 1946, I was standing on top of a hanger at Jacksonville NAS to see the performance of the Blue Angels. I was 13 at the time. Lt Robinson’s Bearcat was exiting from a Cuban Eight when I first saw white contrails from the wing tips. Then a dark flash from a wing tip. The aircraft was unable to recover and hit the air strip in front of me and all the assembled onlookers. I felt the heat from the fireball as parts of the aircraft skittered down the runway”. – (Jackson Harper, Lt Col USAF Ret).
In 1947 the commander of the team was Lieutenant Commander Robert Clarke which introduced for the first time the well-known diamond formation, the looping and barrel roll in the same formation which have become the trademark of today’s Navy Blue’s. (Source: www.aerobaticteams.net)
General F8F characteristics
- Crew: 1 pilot
- Length: 28 ft 3 in (8.61 m)
- Wingspan: 35 ft 10 in (10.92 m)
- Height: 13 ft 9 in (4.21 m)
- Wing area: 244 ft² (22.67 m²)
- Empty weight: 7,070 lb (3,207 kg)
- Loaded weight: 9,600 lb (4,354 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 12,947 lb (5,873 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W “Double Wasp” two-row radial engine, 2,100 hp (1,567 kW)
- Maximum speed: 421 mph (366 kn, 678 km/h)
- Range: 1,105 mi (1,778 km)
- Service ceiling: 38,700 ft (11,796 m)
- Rate of climb: 4,570 ft/min (23.2 m/s)
- Wing loading: 66.7 lb/ft² (192.1 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.22 hp/lb (360 W/kg)
- Guns: 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (Four 20mm M3 cannon F8F-1B)
- Rockets: 4 × 5 in (127 mm) unguided rockets
- Bombs: 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs