With the end of World War II budgets for military expenditures were spiraling down. The exploits of naval aviators were no longer making the headlines as they had for the previous four years. To keep Naval Aviation in the public’s eye Chief Of Naval Operations, Chester W. Nimitz, sent a directive on April 24, 1946 to Admiral Frank Wagner, director of Naval Air Advanced Training Command, authorizing the formation of an Aerobatic demonstration team to display the capabilities of Naval Aviation.

       The team was assigned the name “Blue Lancers” but it never took. In July 1946 the local newspaper even ran a contest to name the team. It took one of the team members seeing an ad in the New Yorker magazine for the “Blue Angel” nightclub for the team to get the name that has stuck for the last sixty years. The first show with the Blue Angels name was on July 19-21, 1946 at Omaha, Nebraska.

       In June of 1946, the team’s first Aerial Demonstration took place at Naval Air Station Jacksonville’s Craig Field. The first shows consisted of three Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats in a simulated dogfight with a North American SNJ taking on the role of a Japanese Zero. Periodically a PB4Y-2 would join the demonstration with the Hellcats providing escort while the SNJ/Zero would attack and would inevitably lead to the SNJ being shot down. In July a fourth Hellcat was added as a spare aircraft and also did a solo routine. On August 25, 1946, a short two months after the team’s formation the Grumman F8F Bearcats replaced the Hellcat.

       The Grumman F8F Bearcat was the last piston-engined fighter developed for the United States Navy. By 1943 the Grumman F6F Hellcat was in full production and Grumman began considering a follow on design for the Hellcat. Reports reaching Grumman attested to the overall excellence of the F6F design, but its low level abilities were a little lower than the Japanese Zeros it was in combat with and while in England during 1943 Grumman’s Chief Test Pilot Bob Hall had flown a captured Focke-Wulf FW-190. Using this information Leroy Grumman personally laid out the specifications for Design 58. The overall design of the new fighter utilized the same low wing stubby design and would use the same Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine as the Hellcat but the new fighter was to be smaller, lighter and faster than its predecessor. A development contract for two XF8F-1s was awarded on November 27, 1943. The first flight of the prototype taking place 10 months later on August 21, 1944. The Bearcats had a 30% better rate of climb than the Hellcat and was also 50 MPH faster.

       The 1947 season saw a change in Flight Leaders with Commander Butch Voris being replaced by LCDR Robert Clarke. During this season LCDR Clarke introduced the Diamond Formation which is now the trademark formation of the Ambassadors In Blue.

       The 1949 season saw the transition to the Grumman F9F-2 Panther.

       The Blue Angels paint scheme has changed over the years. The Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats used in their first two months remained in the standard Dark Sea Blue with U.S. Navy in gold paint on the fuselage sides and both wing bottoms, but had no national insignia. When the team transitioned to the F8F Bearcat a special shade of blue was developed, FS15050 known as Blue Angel Blue. The gold lettering was replaced with Insignia Yellow. It is not clear when “Blue Angels” in script appeared on both sides of the cowling.

       The official Blue Angels insignia first appeared on team member uniforms in May 1949 but would not replace the cowling script for some time. It is nearly identical to the current design. In the cloud in the upper right quadrant contains silhouettes of the squadron’s current aircraft. Originally, the aircraft were originally shown heading down and to the right. Over the years, the plane silhouettes have changed along with the squadron's aircraft. The lower left quadrant contains the Chief of Naval Air Training insignia but has occasionally contained only Naval Aviator wings.

       The model was built using Academy Kit # 12201 “F8F-1/2 Bearcat French Air Force” The kit can be built as one of three options. I chose the Blue Angels scheme, which involves choosing the shorter tail and correct cowling for the F8F-1 as well as the appropriate decal.

       Assembly was straight out of the box. I did vary from the kit instructions by leaving the engine assembly off until the model was painted and decaled. Some puttying was required, but very little. A lot of time was spent using Turtle Wax Premium Grade Polishing Compound polishing the assembled fuselage in preparation for the mirror finish required for a Blue Angels aircraft. Several coats of Testors Model Master FS 15050 Blue Angel Blue paints were used for finishing. I allowed several days between coats. Once the depth of paint was achieved I used several coats of Pledge with Future Shine to get the required gloss finish.

       There were decals supplied for six aircraft but to my disappointment all six had the same U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 94560. 94560 Is listed as a Grumman Hellcat.

Bibliography:

       U.S Naval Fighters, Navy/Marine Corps 1922 to 1980s, Lloyd S. Jones., Aero Publishers Inc. ISBN 0-8168-9254-7

       Combat Aircraft of the World, Edited and Compiled by John W.R. Taylor, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, SBN 425-03633-2

       National Museum Of Naval Aviation - Grumman F8F Bearcat

       Wikipedia Article on the Grumman F8F Bearcat

       Aircraft - Grumman F8F Bearcat

       Grumman F8F Bearcat on Warbird Alley

       Official Blue Angels Website

       Official Blue Angels History on US Navy Website

       Grumman and the Blue Angels

       Blue Angels History from AerobaticTeams.net

       Blue Angels History on Blufton Today

       Blue Angels Bureau of Aeronautics Numbers

Photo GalleryModel Magazine DatabaseModel ProjectsFree Picture Of The MonthEnthusiast's LinksHomeContact Us