Part 6 of 6

Published in the June 1976 Issue of Naval Aviation News
Author: Commander Rosario Rausa
Photographer Unknown

Commander Keith "Casey" Jones is in his first season as the top Blue Angel. He relieved Commander Tony Less who successfully guided the Blues through their first two years in Skyhawks and through the transition period when the team was organized as a squadron. Casey's is the most demanding job in the outfit. As could be expected, he and his predecessors have had exemplary credentials.

 "Of course the flying is the most difficult part of the assignments," explains Cdr. Jones. Here at winter training, it's a building block process for all of us. The leader has to be smooth and continuously considerate of the wingmen. You have to judge the wind conditions and make appropriate adjustments to ensure that the maneuvers are executed for best audience viewing. You are the 'eyes' for the whole formation."

 "In a fleet squadron (Casey was skipper of VA-153), the C.O. is usually the most experienced pilot in the unit. For me that doesn't hold true during training since I'm new this year. Later in the season and next year will be different."

 "I rely on the junior pilots who have been with the team longer. It's a good relationship. I make no conscious effort to be aloof, and there has never been a problem of over-familiarity."

 "We're formal and conform to Navy standards, as you would expect. However, at civic functions we relax the formality."

 "Some would say being a Blue leader is an awesome responsibility but I don't feel overwhelmed. Although I've never had a lifelong ambition to be a Blue Angel, I am extremely proud to have been selected and feel equal to the job."

The Blue Angel leadership is in good hands. 


The Blue Angel selection process takes place over a several month period. In addition to flight time (1,500 hour tactical jet) and shore rotation requirements, the potential demonstration pilot must have a lot going for him.

BuPers receives requests from individual pilots along with commanding officer endorsements. Generally, there are about 40 applicants for two positions each year. The Bureau will cut that number in half based on review of fitness reports. Blue Angel pilots themselves will examine the credentials of the remaining 20 or so.

About half of the 20 will be scratched for a variety of reasons – personality, drinking habits, or some form of behavior which might be unsuitable in the fishbowl atmosphere of Blue Angel life.

Could a pilot with outstanding marks in all categories, but with average flying ability, make it? The answer is no. The Blue Angel pilot must be above average in the cockit. The Blues cannot accept the pilot who is satisfied with less than an OK number three wire pass every time. That’s not to say the applicant must be an absolutely unerring flyer. But he must possess a reputation for trying to be the best on a continuing basis.

The competition is obviously tough. Less than 200 pilots have made the grade since the team was first organized in June 1946, 30 years ago. That’s the way it has to be.