Blue Angels to Receive Upgraded ‘Fat Albert’ from the UK

The Blue Angels C-130 logistics transport soars during a 2016 air show piloted by an all-Marine crew. (Charles Atkeison)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command announced on Monday that it was awarded a replacement logistics C-130 aircraft to support the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron beginning in 2020.

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence said in March that the Navy asked to purchase one of their C-130J Hercules to replace the Blue Angels aging C-130T, known as Fat Albert. The replacement logistics aircraft is scheduled to be handed over to the Blue Angels in April 2020.

“The (American) government requires a suitable replacement aircraft, which must be delivered in an expeditious manner, to avoid a gap in logistical support of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron,” The Ministry said in March. “The aircraft being procured from the UK MOD has the requisite amount of life and technical capability to support the Blue Angels mission.”

The Blue Angels C-130 known as Fat Albert sits poised during a 2015 air show. (Charles Atkeison)

The purchase by America’s Naval Air Systems Command PMA-207 creates a savings of nearly $50 million versus the construction of a new C-130J. The price tag for the used C-130J is $29.7 million.

“This is a win-win for the U.S. Navy and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence,” Capt. Steven Nassau, PMA-207 program manager, said on Monday. “Just as the Navy recognized the imminent need to replace the Fat Albert aircraft, the UK MOD was divesting of an American made C-130J aircraft, allowing us to acquire a suitable replacement aircraft at a major cost savings.”

PMA-207 is the Tactical Airlift Program Office responsible for procurement of specialized military aircraft. The new C-130J will become the fourth Fat Albert Airlines since 1970.

The pilot’s cockpit display of the Blue Angels C-130 Fat Albert in 2016. (Charles A Atkeison)

Bert’s all-Marine crew flies the C-130 to air show sites loaded with spare parts and personnel. The hulking aircraft is also a crowd favorite during shows as it traditionally flies the first 12 minutes prior to the the Blue Angels’ six jet performance.

The most recent Fat Albert was officially retired in May, after 17 years and over 30,000 flight hours with the squadron. The second Bert, known as C-130 891, is parked behind the Naval Aviation Museum, located next door to the home of the Blue Angels at NAS Pensacola.

“Fat Albert is a nickname given to the plane by the Marine Corps Blue Angel pilots in the 1970s because of its size and shape,” Blue Angels spokesperson “It is a reference to the popular children’s cartoon of the same era.”

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