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Relive and Enjoy the Blue Angels Years of Flying the Phabulous Phantom

Loud and Fast, the F-4J Thrilled Crowds Flying Impressive Performances Around the World

Image courtesy Boeing

The United States Navy Precision Flight Demonstration Team, also known as the Blue Angels, flew the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II during performances for only five loud and fast show seasons between 1969 and 1974. In 1972 the Blues were awarded the Navy’s Meritorious Unit Commendation for the two-year period from March 1st 1970 to December 31st 1971. The promotional film “Diamond In the Sky” was produced by McDonnell Douglas during those remarkable years. This great film was uploaded to YouTube by PeriscopeFilm.

Image courtesy Boeing

When the Blues transitioned to the F-4J the Phabulous Phantom became the only aircraft used simultaneously by both the Navy and US Air Force Flight Demonstration Teams. The US Air Force Thunderbirds flew the F-4E variant of the Phantom II during the same 1969 to 1974 period as the Blue Angels operated the F-4J. The also F-4J necessitated changes to the Blue Angels performances. The available thrust provided by the Phantom’s twin GE J79 engines allowed the Blue Angels to perform the “Dirty Loop” maneuver. The F-4J was also considerably faster than the Grumman F11F-1 Tigers they replaced, resulting in additional maneuvers being added to the Blue Angels’ performances.

Official US Navy photograph

During the time the film was produced the Blue Angels were commanded and led by US Navy Commander Harley Hall (Flight Lead and #1), with US Marine Corps Captain Kevin O’Mara (Right Wing and #2), US Navy Lieutenant Bill Beardsley (Left Wing and #3), US Navy Lieutenant Jim Maslowski (Slot and #4), US Navy Lieutenant Skip Umstead (Lead Solo and #5), US Navy Lieutenant Bill Switzer (Opposing Solo and #6), US Navy Lieutenant Commander J.D. Davis (Narrator and #7), and US Navy Lieutenant Dick Schram, who was the Public Affairs Officer.

Official US Navy photograph

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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