PENSACOLA, Fla. — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels on Saturday announced the selection of new pilots and support personnel who will join the aerobatic flight squadron in time for the 2018 air show season.
The selection of new Blue Angels officers were made on Thursday, and on Friday, Boss Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi made phone calls welcoming excited — yet calm — officers to America’s Pride, the Blue Angels.
“I am incredibly impressed by the quality, professionalism, and talent of the Sailors and Marines who apply for this team,” Cmdr. Bernacchi, commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels, said on Saturday. “We’re going to field a superb team next year, and I am excited to see them continue the legacy of representing the pride and professionalism of the Navy and Marine Corps.”
The joint Navy and Marines flight demonstration squadron first welcomed Navy Cmdr. Eric Doyle to succeed outgoing Cmdr. Bernacchi on April 4 as the Blues new Boss and Angel 1 for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
A native of League City, Texas, Doyle’s addition to the team was announced following a panel comprised of 10 admirals and former commanding officers. The two will work closely together beginning in September, and he will take the helm in November.
“This was a childhood dream come true,” said Cmdr. Doyle. “My motivation to become a pilot came from watching the Blue Angels.”
The Blues selected two new pilots this week to fly the sleek blue and yellow FA-18 Hornets, Marine Maj. Jeffrey Mullins of Memphis, Tennessee and Navy LT Andre Webb of Lawton, Oklahoma. Current pilots LT Lance Benson, who has served as Angel 4 for two seasons, and CDR Frank Weisser, who replaced fallen Blue Angel, Capt. Jeff Kuss, in August 2016, will return to the fleet in November.
Current pilots LT Damon Kroes, LT Nate Scott, LT Tyler Davies, and LT Brandon Hempler are poised to return with the team for 2018. LT. Davies will move up to lead solo pilot in Angel 5, while LT. Hempler will move from this year’s narrator to the role of opposing solo.
Marine Capt. Beau Mabery of Lompoc, California will soar next season in the cockpit of air show crowd favorite Fat Albert — the team’s C-130 transport aircraft. Capt. Mabery will conclude his assignment in September at Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 in Japan where he has worked with aerial refueling aboard a KC-130J.
Current Fat Albert pilot Maj. Mark Montgomery will move up as lead pilot in 2018, as he, Marine Maj. Kyle Maschner, and Capt. Mabery round out the three officer flight crew. Current lead pilot Maj. Mark Hamilton will depart this November following three seasons behind the yolk. The C-130T soars with a crew of eight including three pilots and five support personnel.
The Blue Angels have performed for over 504 million fans since their first public air show in May 1946. The 2018 season schedule will begin at El Centro NAS, California on March 10 and conclude 32 show sites later at their home base in Pensacola.
Several key support personal were also selected including Navy LT Garrett Hopkins and Navy LT David Gardner as maintenance officer and public affairs officer, respectively.
The current rotation of Angels pilots and team members are two or three years.
The newly selected pilots and team members will report in mid-September to the squadrons home at Pensacola Naval Air Station to begin training. In early January, the Blue Angels will depart Florida for their winter training home in southern California for six weeks of intense flight and tactical training prior to their first air show.
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)