PENSACOLA, Fla. — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels announced Friday they will keep this season’s pilots for next year as the team prepares to transition to the Super Hornets in November.
The Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron elected to retain the entire jet team for next season also due to the shortened season. Three pilots were scheduled to return to the fleet in November.
The cancellation of air shows due of Covid-19 have kept the Blues grounded nearly all season. Only three air shows remain on their schedule from September to October.
The six delta formation pilots and the advance pilot will remain in their same positions. They will begin training in November with the new Super Hornet aircraft.
Navy Cmdr. Brian Kesselring will begin his second season as Boss of the squadron. LCDR James Haley will stay on for his third season as right wing pilot.
Slot pilot Maj. Frank Zastoupil, LCDR James Cox, Lead Solo LCDR Brandon Hempler, and LCDR Cary Rickoff will remain for 2021. Next season will Hempler’s fourth year with the Blue Angels.
LT. Julius Bratton will remain as the advance pilot and narrator for next season.
“This year offered an exemplary group of applicants from around the fleet, making our selection process very difficult,” Cmdr. Kesselring said from the Blues’ home base at NAS Pensacola. “With these fantastic new additions to the Blue Angels team for 2021, we are all well equipped to head into our historic 75th show season.”
The Blue Angels did select a new pilot for their C-130J Super Hercules known as Fat Albert. Marine C-130 pilot Capt. Jackson Streiff will join the squadron this autumn.
New officers were also selected for next season to support logistics and aircraft maintenance. The Blue Angels will celebrate their 75th anniversary season in April.
Navy Lt. Katlin Forster was selected as the new events coordinator. She currently serves as a naval flight officer instructor at NAS Pensacola, next door to the Blue Angels home.
A new flight surgeon will join the Blue Angels. Navy Lt. Monica Borza has served recently with the Black Knights of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 at Miramar, Calif.
Navy Lt. Henry Cedeño will become the Blues new maintenance officer for 2021. He served recently with Strike Fighter Squadron 211 at Naval Air Station Oceana where he maintained the Super Hornets.
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)