Memorial To Honor Blue Angel Pilot Nears Completion, Public Dedication

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Blue Angels Memorial in Smyrna

The finishing touches are being put on a memorial to honor Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, who was killed when his F/A-18 Hornet crashed during a practice flight demonstration in Smyrna, Tennessee in June 2016.

Kuss, who was in his second year on the team, was loved by many. He also was popular in the media, since his position as the team’s 2015 narrator also enabled him to give rides to media, VIPs, and local influencers at each show site the Blue Angels attended.

Following the crash, the town of Smyrna wanted to honor Kuss in a special way. In May of 2017, plans were announced to build a permanent memorial for the fallen Blue Angels pilot outside the airport and adjacent to Lee Victory Recreation Park, where the town came together the night of the crash to honor Kuss. Plans for the memorial included pavers, which could be bought for a small donation, and a retired F/A-18 Hornet in Blue Angel colors.

Kuss Memorial Groundbreaking

On October 18th, 2017, groundbreaking for the memorial was held.

On Friday, the most prominent part of the memorial was installed. A retired Blue Angel jet, BuNo 163498, was lifted by crane from a flatbed trailer and into position on an elevated platform in the memorial. The aircraft is on permanent loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

Kuss Memorial F-18 Hornet - Smyrna, TNKuss Memorial F-18 Hornet - Smyrna, TN

In a video posted by the Town of Smyrna, some F/A-18 hornets are seen flying over the Blue Angel jet. The flyover was performed by members of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 (VMFAT-101), based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA. They flew in from California on Thursday, and waited until the plane was placed to do the flyover, then departed on their way to NAS Oceana, VA.

The memorial dedication will be held on June 9 at 10:00 a.m. at Lee Victory Recreation Park in Smyrna and is open the public. For those who can’t attend, the ceremony will be streamed live. Stay tuned to our social media channels for more info.

Colorado Highway Named In Honor Of Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, Blue Angel #6

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Colorado Highway Renamed Jeff Kuss Memorial Highway
Courtesy: CDOT/Navy

A new sign now stands as an honor to fallen Blue Angel #6. Colorado Highway 3 just outside of Durango has been renamed as the Capt. Jeff Kuss Memorial Highway in honor of the Marine pilot. The announcement comes nearly a year after the tragic accident in Smyrna, TN in which Kuss lost his life.

The resolution, brought forward by Rep. Barbara McLachlan who represents the district of Durango where Kuss resided, was formally read before the chambers of the Legislature of Colorado and passed in both the House and Senate with all members joining as co-sponsors. McLachlan said that she sees the resolution as “a tribute to Kuss, his family, and veterans across the state.”

Five members of Kuss’ family who live in Colorado were present in the House of Legislature for the announcement of the resolution.

The town of Smyrna, TN, where the accident occurred is also working to honor Kuss by building a memorial. They have raised half of the expected $1 million cost of the memorial but help is needed to complete the project. Click here for more information on how you can help.

In The Air With The 2016 US Army Golden Knights

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US Army Golden Knights

The Golden Knights have been dazzling crowds and representing the US Army for over fifty-seven years. The Gold and Black demonstration teams traverse the United States each season, performing at airshows, festivals, fairs, baseball games, and other special events. These jumps are designed to connect the public with soldiers they may not see otherwise and to enhance the Army’s recruitment efforts.

During the 2016 season, AirshowStuff had the unique opportunity to go up in the Golden Knights’ jump plane for two of their parachute jumps, one at the Appalachian Fair in Tennessee and the other at the Cleveland National Airshow in Ohio. The experience is unlike any other ride you may take with an airshow performer. Why? The first reason has to do with temperature. When they tell you before your flight to bring a jacket with you, they’re not kidding.

The C-31A Troopships and DHC-6-400 Twin Otters that carry the Knights (and media representatives) both have large open doors to let the jumpers out. With no insulation or heat in the cabin, the temperature drops significantly as the aircraft climbs up jump altitude at 12,500 feet above the ground. Often times, the temperature is a chilly 40-50 degrees, even in the middle of summer! Combine that with a wicked wind blasting in the open doors, and you’re going to be shivering.

US Army Golden KnightsUS Army Golden Knights

The preparation for the demonstration begins long before the aircraft leaves the ground, though. Before the flight, the jumpers line up near the rear of the aircraft and are briefed on the mission. Any special tasks or potential issues are discussed. The team will also practice how they will line up after the jump to be introduced to the crowd.

US Army Golden Knights - C-31 TroopshipUS Army Golden Knights

About 45-50 minutes before time on target, the aircraft takes off with the crew stomping to pump themselves up. Once the aircraft is in the air, it begins to climb an altitude of 2,000 feet to execute the wind drift indicator drop. These wind drift indicators allow for a visualization of the winds in the lowest thousand feet above the ground, critical for a pinpoint drop zone landing. Once the indicators have been dropped and logged, the aircraft climbs to its target altitude. This all occurs 20-30 minutes before time on target, so the aircraft often circles the target zone several times before the hot target run is called.

If an altitude of 12,500 feet is allowed by the weather, two different shows can be performed. The “mass show” entails the narrator exiting the aircraft and unfurling the American flag from his parachute. Following his jump and some pre-show narration, the rest of the team exits and joins up in one large freefall formation. The full show consists of four separate jump runs and maneuvers; the baton pass, cutaway, diamond track, and diamond formation. If a lower altitude is necessary or another issue raises concerns, the show can be altered further.

US Army Golden KnightsUS Army Golden Knights

When it’s time to jump, the jump master will give a HOT TARGET call and hand signal. This call will then be passed back from the front of the plane to the rear by all members, to ensure the message has been received. Now, it’s time to press record on the GoPros, wait for the green light, and then jump! With a loud rush of noise, the jumpers are gone and the plane is suddenly very empty. As the jumpers touch down below, the aircraft rapidly descends to land. Another show complete for the hardworking Golden Knights!

Check out the video below for a special formation jump by two members of the Golden Knights Black Team into the Appalachian Fair in Gray, TN. Thank you to both the Black and Gold demonstration teams as well as the Cleveland National Airshow!

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

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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.

Warbird Pilot Killed In Tennessee Airshow Crash Saturday

posted in: Airshows, Warbirds | 1
Jay Gordon L-39 Albatros
Photo courtesy Wings Over Big South Fork Airshow

Pilot Jay “Flash” Gordon was killed when his L-39 Albatros jet reportedly failed to recover from a dive and crashed yesterday afternoon. Jay was performing at the Wings Over Big South Fork Airshow in Oneida, TN. His flying is maybe most well known from previous appearances at the Thunder Over Louisville airshow in his hometown.

Thunder Over Louisville posted a photo of Gordon on their instagram account following the news:

Here is video of Flash performing at Thunder Over Louisville in 2011: