In a bizarre coincidence, two aircraft, one from the Navy’s Blue Angels, and the other from the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, went down in the same day. The USAF pilot, Major Alex Turner, was able to eject and survive. Unfortunately, Marine Captain Jeff Kuss of the Blue Angels did not survive. He was 32 years old.
Considering the inherent danger in close-formation precision flying with the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world, it is remarkable that accidents do not happen more often. But they do happen. Both flight demonstration teams have had their share of accidents and fatalities throughout the years. The most recent was in 2007, when Lt. Commander Kevin Davis of the Blue Angels crashed during an air show in South Carolina. The Thunderbirds’ last fatality was in 1981, when Captain Nick Hauck was killed bringing his T-38 aircraft in on a low approach in Utah.
In addition to these, there have been a number of other crashes and near-misses through the years. But considering the many thousands of flight hours these demonstration teams put into training and air shows, their track record is impressive. Flying at 45o miles per hour, often only 18 inches away from each other, is a feat of airmanship that is simply amazing. Indeed, for those of us who have been at crash sites, it is a testament to the remarkable skill of Major Turner that his downed Thunderbird was basically in one piece. Oftentimes the scene of a crash is a strewn path of rubble that one would be hard-pressed to even identify as part of a plane. But look at this!