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.

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

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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.


The Snowbirds and CF-18 join an already stellar lineup which includes the Blue Angels, USAF F-16 Viper Demo, Shockwave Jet Truck, Leap Frogs, Scooter Yoak in his P-51, Jim Tobul in his F-4U Corsair, Skip Stewart, Mike Wiskus, Michael Goulian, the Stearman Formation Team and a B-17.

Tickets are available at MemphisAirshow.org

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!

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

posted in: Jet Teams | 67
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.

Great Tennessee Airshow Announces Full Performer Lineup

posted in: Airshows | 0

Great Tennessee Airshow

The Great Tennessee Air Show has announced its complete lineup for the 2016 show happening Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5 at Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport near Nashville, TN.

The US Navy Blue Angels will be the headlining act, with the USAF F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team and the Brietling Jet Team also on site. In addition, numerous world-famous performers including aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker; the GEICO Skytypers airshow team of six vintage WWII aircraft performing precision flight maneuvers; Jim Tobul and the “Korean War Hero” F4U-4 Corsair; Scooter Yoak in his “Quick Silver” P-51D Mustang; Michael Kennedy in the historic Vultee BT-13 Valiant; Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team; Dan Buchanan in his unpowered hang glider; and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard will perform. Wayne Boggs, of the international reality television show, Air Boss, will serve as air boss. Award-winning broadcast journalist Rick Peterson brings his breadth of aviation knowledge and witty personality as this year’s air show announcer.

“With this year’s lineup, aviation fans are in for an extra spectacular Great Tennessee Air Show,” said John Black, executive director of Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority. “We have assembled elite aviation performers to present what will surely be one of the nation’s most talked-about air shows of the season.”

The 2016 Great Tennessee Air Show will also feature multiple static displays, concessions and numerous activities for children. Named one of the “Top 10 Best Air Shows Around the World” by USA Today, the Great Tennessee Air Show gives the community an opportunity to experience aviation up close and personal.

Advance priced tickets are available at www.greattennesseeairshow.com. Advance general admission prices are $30 for adults and $15 for children. Advance box seats are $45 with Flight Line Club Advance tickets priced at $135 for adults and $75 for children (ages 4-12). Ticket buyers can make a donation to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee when purchasing tickets online.