Smyrna Breaks Ground On Captain Jeff Kuss Memorial For Fallen Blue Angel Pilot

posted in: Jet Teams, Miscellaneous | 0

The construction of a memorial to honor a fallen Blue Angel has begun.

Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss was killed on June 2nd, 2016 when his Blue Angels jet crashed during a Thursday afternoon practice demonstration in Tennessee. In his memory, the town of Smyrna plans to erect a permanent memorial.

The groundbreaking ceremony, held October 18th, was the first step in getting the memorial built.

As part of the memorial, a Blue Angels F/A-18C hornet will be on permanent display outside the airport adjacent to Lee Victory Recreation Park, where the community came together the night of the crash to remember Kuss.

If you want to donate, visit www.captjeffkussusmcmemorial.com. You can purchase a paver or donate money. As of late October, 78% of the money needed to build the memorial has been raised. All or part of your gift may be tax deductible as a charitable contribution.

Here’s video from the groundbreaking ceremony.

Navy Releases Report From Blue Angel 6 Crash Investigation

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Captain Jeff Kuss - Blue Angel 6

The United States Navy has concluded their investigation into the fatal crash of a Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornet earlier this year in June, which killed Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss.

The publicly released JAGMAN report lists “pilot error” as the primary cause, stating that Capt. Kuss was too low (3,196 feet) and was flying too fast (184 knots) before entering the Split-S maneuver after takeoff. The maneuver is supposed to be initiated at an altitude of no less than 3,500 feet above the ground and with an optimum airspeed of 125 to 135 knots. No mechanical or maintenance issues were discovered by the investigation.

The report also gives numerous recommendations for ways to learn from the crash and improve safety, such as reviewing and implementing changes to the Blue Angel’s Standard Operation Procedures. The Split-S maneuver will not be performed in 2016 and will be reviewed before the 2017 season to potentially add extra safeguards. More specific training is urged for team members as well, including reviews of when to abort a maneuver.

In the report, Capt. Kuss’ was rightfully recognized for his exceptional Navy career and his passion for showcasing Naval aviation. Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker, Commander of Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet said “Capt. Kuss represented the best and brightest of Naval Aviation. His loss is devastating and felt across the Naval Aviation Community.” The investigation determined that Capt. Kuss died in the line of duty and not due to misconduct.

In the hours and days following the crash, countless people expressed their sadness over the loss of Blue Angel 6 and shared their stories of how he touched their lives. Capt. Kuss memory will forever live in the lives of the children and people he connected with during his time with the Blue Angels.

Blue Angels To Stand Down Following Crash, But The Great Tennessee Airshow Will Be Held

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 0

US Navy Blue Angel - Great Tennessee Airshow 2016

The 2016 Great Tennessee Airshow in Smyrna, TN will go on this weekend as scheduled following yesterday’s fatal Blue Angel crash during practice. The Blue Angels will obviously not be performing as they mourn their teammate and observe a safety stand down to investigate the incident.

Airshows are massive investments and canceling at the last minute would likely ruin the show organization permanently. Organizers say they consulted with the Blue Angels and other performers before making the decision. The show will still feature the USAF F-22 Raptor and the Breitling Jet Team, along with other performers. The full statement from the airshow is below.

The Blue Angels will likely take a period of time off from performing in order to process the loss and investigate what happened. After the last fatal Blue Angels crash in 2007, which claimed the life of Lieutenant Commander Kevin “Kojak” Davis, the team took several weeks off from shows to regroup.

They recalled a former pilot to rejoin the team, and practiced extensively in order to get him up to speed. In the mean time, they performed a five-ship routine at airshows. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, we anticipate they will likely follow the same course of action this year.

Full statement from The Great Tennessee Airshow:

Smyrna, Tenn. (June 2, 2016) — The Great Tennessee Air Show will proceed as scheduled on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5.

“Our hearts are deeply saddened by today’s tragic and devastating accident,” said John Black, Executive Director of the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport. “Show management has discussed the relative advantages and disadvantages of continuing the show. After close consultation with the Blue Angels, regulatory officials and the performers, we have made the decision to carry on with this weekend’s show.”

Due to today’s incident, the Blue Angels will not be performing this weekend.

Blue Angel 6 Killed In Crash During Smyrna, TN Practice

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Captain Jeff Kuss - Blue Angel 6
Captain Jeff Kuss climbs skyward in Blue Angel 6 just weeks ago.
Taken at the 2016 Spirit of St Louis Airshow and STEM Expo, presented by Boeing

We are sad to report that Captain Jeff Kuss, Blue Angel 6, has been killed in a crash today at the Great Tennessee Airshow in Smyrna, TN. He was performing as part of a practice routine for this weekend’s airshow. Eyewitness accounts say the aircraft impacted the ground at a nearby golf course while attempting a Split-S maneuver after takeoff, as is normal for #6. A large fireball and smoke cloud were seen, and rescue personnel responded. The other Blue Angels landed safely.

Captain Jeff Kuss - Blue Angel 6

According to his bio on the Blue Angels website, Kuss was a native of Durango, CO and was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps in 2006. He joined the Blue Angels in 2014 and served as the team’s narrator during the 2015 season before transitioning to Opposing Solo for the 2016 season.

Please note that this incident is unrelated to the USAF Thunderbirds incident in Colorado today.

Our thoughts are with Capt. Kuss’ family, friends, and shipmates during this horrible time.

UPDATE: One of our photographers gathered this footage of various tributes to Captain Kuss in the days following the crash.