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Watch: Blue Angels Tradition Recalls the Phantom II Era

The Team’s Phantom Era Was Fast and Loud But Ended Tragically

Blue Angels flying F-4Js. Image via US Navy

The US Navy Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels, made a huge change in 1969. Having flown the Grumman F11F-1 (later F-11) Tiger for the previous 11 seasons, the Blues transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II for the 1969 show season. The shift to the Phantom II required changes to the maneuvers flown during the performance as well as to the jets themselves.  This awesome promotional film entitled “Blue Angels Tradition” was produced in 1969 and uploaded to YouTube by sdasmarchives.

The Blue Angels Phantoms were some of the first F-4Js delivered to the Navy. They had lead ballast in their noses instead of the AWG-10 radar system. The aircraft flown by the Blues were powered by the General Electric J79-GE-8 engines instead of the J79-GE-10 power plants. They were modified with the Air Force non-skid braking system from the F-4C variant, modified navigation avionics, modified radios, the show smoke system, and modified oxygen systems. Blues F-4Js had tweaked flight control and throttle systems capable higher precision than the stock controls.

Blue Angels F-4Js. Image via Boeing

The Blues accepted their first of seven ballasted nose F-4Js on 23 December 1968. Eventually the team flew 12 of them at one time or another. Ten of those 12 F-4J jets flown by the team were destroyed along with another replacement Phantom. During 1973, three F-4Js were destroyed without fatalities during training at Naval Air Station (NAS) El Centro. Then two jets collided during an arrival ceremony at NAS Lakehurst killing four. The team’s 1973 season was cut short and in large part these disasters drove the move to the McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk.

Blue Angels F-4Js. Image via Boeing

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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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