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Blue Angels Announce New Pilots, Support Officers for 2020

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron announced the selection of new pilots and support officers on Monday in preparation for their intensive training for the 2020 season.

The Navy’s Blue Angels will welcome two new pilots to fly the F/A-18 Hornets, one for the diamond and one as the advance pilot. Two new C-130 Hercules pilots have also been selected to fly the team’s new C-130J.

Former Blue Angels events coordinator Cmdr. Todd Royles has been selected as the squadron’s new executive officer for 2020-21. He will begin his job on November 9 as the squadron completes their annual Homecoming air show from NAS Pensacola.

“I cannot be more excited to be returning to the team to join Cmdr. Kesselring in guiding this amazing organization through its 74th season,” Cmdr. Royles said on Friday. “I’m humbled to be welcomed back to this extraordinary group and join them in representing all those in our Navy and Marine Corps to the American public.”

A New Blue Angels Boss and Pilots

The Blue Angels will have a new Boss for 2020-21 seasons. Navy Cmdr. Brian Kesselring will take charge as the new Blue Angel 1 pilot and commanding officer.

“It’s absolutely humbling, and I’m honored to be here to represent the Navy and Marine Corps team,” Cmdr. Kesselring said recently. “Throughout my career as an F/A-18 pilot, I’ve always looked to the Blues as a source of inspiration.”

Navy Cmdr. Brian Kesselring (left) will serve as the Blue Angels new flight leader replaceing Capt. Eric Doyle. (Charles A Atkeison)

Kesselring will take command of the 141 men and women who serve with the Blue Angels. AS Boss, he will fly as the demonstration flight leader in the number one jet. They are scheduled to perform at 29 locations across the United States, performing 56 flights next season.

Marine Maj. Frank Zastoupil will serve as either the new slot pilot — Blue Angel 4. Maj. Zastoupil has served as an F-35B Lightning II pilot at Marine Air Corps Station Beaufort’s VFAT-501.

Navy LT. Julius Bratton has been announced as a new F/A-18 pilot, and will serve as the team’s new advance pilot and air show narrator. Bratton will replace current Blue Angel 7 LT. Cary Rickoff who will move up as the new lead solo for next season.

The Blue Angels will have a new no. 4 and no. 7 pilots as Maj. Zastoupil and LT. Bratton join the squadron in November. Capt. Huckeba will serve as a new C-13J pilot. (US Navy)

Marine pilots Capt. William Huckeba and Capt. Rick Rose will join current Blue Angels C-130 pilot Marine Capt. Beau Mabery for 2020. They will welcome their new C-130J, known as Fat Albert, in April.

“We had a phenomenal group of applicants this year,” Current Blue Angels Boss Capt. Eric Doyle said on Monday. “The 2020 Blue Angels are lucky to have these talented individuals join them to represent the Navy and Marine Corps in the team’s 74th show season.”

Marine Maj. Frank Zastoupil will serve as either the new slot pilot — Blue Angel 4. Maj. Zastoupil has served as an F-35B Lightning II pilot at Marine Air Corps Station Beaufort’s VFAT-501.

Navy LT. Julius Bratton has been announced as a new F/A-18 pilot, and will serve as the team’s new advance pilot and air show narrator. Bratton will replace current Blue Angel 7 LCDR Andre Webb who will move up as the new lead solo for next season.

Capt. Rose will also pilot the Blue Angels C-130J ‘Fat Albert’ next season; while LT. Abe will be in charge of aircraft maintenance, and LTJG Dietlin will lead the public affairs office. (US Navy)

Navy LT. Brian Abe was selected as the new maintenance officer, and LTJG Chelsea Dietlin as the new public affairs officer. 

The Blue Angels have performed for over 506 million guests since their first public air show in May 1946. The 2020 season schedule will begin at El Centro on March 14 and conclude 30 show sites later at their home base in Pensacola for the popular Homecoming Airshow in November.

(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)

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Written by Charles Atkeison

Charles A Atkeison is a long time aerospace journalist having covered both military and civilian aviation, plus 30 space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. He has produced multimedia aerospace content for CNN, London's Sky News, radio, print, and the web for twenty years. From flying with his father at age 5 to soaring as a VIP recently with the Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds, Charles continues to enjoy all aspects of flight.