Friday, May 27, 2011

Blue Angels' commanding officer relieved of duty over safety concern

PENSACOLA, Florida -- Chief of Naval Air Training, Rear Adm. Bill Sizemore, today relieved Cmdr. Dave Koss, commanding officer of the "Blue Angels" Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron, of his duties following a lower-than-normal maneuver during the team’s last performance at the Lynchburg Regional Air Show May 22.Sizemore's action came at Koss' request, according to an announcement from Sizemore's office.
Navy Lt. Kaitie Kelly, the Blue Angels spokeswoman, said the altitude problem involved 4 of the 6 F/A-18 Hornets flying a diamond formation at Sunday's air show in Lynchburg, Va. All 6 aircraft landed safely about three-fourths of the way through the scheduled performance without damage to the jets or injury to the pilots.
“With deep personal regret I shared with my command today that I will be voluntarily leaving the greatest flight demonstration team. I performed a maneuver that had an unacceptably low minimum altitude,” Koss said today in a statement.
“This maneuver, combined with other instances of not meeting the airborne standard that makes the Blue Angels the exceptional organization that it is, led to my decision to step down.
"I have the utmost respect for the Sailors and Marines of the Blue Angels organization and all that they embody. The reason this team is so successful, brings thrills to millions of fans across America, and represents the U.S. Navy so superbly is because of the absolute commitment to safety and perfection by every member of the team.
"I am honored to have been a part of this organization and I look forward to watching its success in the future.”
Koss will be replaced by Capt. Greg McWherter, who was the previous Blue Angels’ Commanding Officer, for the duration of the season.
The announcement of Koss' departure comes after the Blue Angels canceled a practice and show this week at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md
Sizemore said relieving Koss of his duties requires the cancellation of the Blue Angels’ scheduled performances at the Rockford Airfest June 4-5 and the Evansville Freedom Festival Air Show June 11-12. The Blue Angels will remain in Pensacola for additional training and air show demonstration practice, he said.
Any potential changes to the team's future schedule are to be announced at a later date.

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