Dating to approximately 1975, PORTRAIT THE BLUE ANGELS was created by the U.S. Navy and McDonnell Douglas, manufacturer of the A-4F Skyhawk II. The Navy's Flight Demonstration Team downsized to the subsonic Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II in December 1974 and was reorganized into the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. Immediately prior to this configuration, the Blues flew the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II, a Mach 2.2 capable, two-set fighter. The 1974 reorganization permitted the establishment of a commanding officer (the flight leader), added support officers, and further redefined the squadron's mission emphasizing the support of recruiting efforts. Commander Tony Less was the squadron's first official commanding officer.
The Blue Angels is the United States Navy's flight demonstration squadron, with aviators from the Navy and Marines. The Blue Angels team was formed in 1946, making it the second oldest formal flying aerobatic team (under the same name) in the world, after the French Patrouille de France formed in 1931. The Blue Angels' six demonstration pilots currently fly the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, typically in more than 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the United States each year, where they still employ many of the same practices and techniques used in their aerial displays in their inaugural 1946 season. An estimated 11 million spectators view the squadron during air shows each full year. The Blue Angels also visit more than 50,000 people in a standard show season (March through November) in schools and hospitals. Since 1946, the Blue Angels have flown for more than 260 million spectators.
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is a single seat subsonic carrier-capable attack aircraft developed for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps in the early 1950s. The delta winged, single turbojet engined Skyhawk was designed and produced by Douglas Aircraft Company, and later by McDonnell Douglas. It was originally designated A4D under the U.S. Navy's pre-1962 designation system.
The Skyhawk is a relatively lightweight aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 24,500 pounds (11,100 kg) and has a top speed of more than 670 miles per hour (1,080 km/h). The aircraft's five hardpoints support a variety of missiles, bombs and other munitions. It was capable of carrying a bomb load equivalent to that of a World War II-era Boeing B-17 bomber, and could deliver nuclear weapons using a low-altitude bombing system and a "loft" delivery technique. The A-4 was originally powered by the Wright J65 turbojet engine; from the A-4E onwards, the Pratt & Whitney J52 was used.
Skyhawks played key roles in the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Falklands War. Sixty years after the aircraft's first flight, some of the nearly 3,000 produced remain in service with several air arms around the world, including from the Brazilian Navy's aircraft carrier, São Paulo.
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