BY JOHN STAHR
L/E of 600. Signed and numbered by the artist.
Size:19" x 25"
Painted as the companion piece to
"Northwest Passage The U.S. Navy Blue Angels"
"Fat Albert", a reliable Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport, is the backbone of the spectacular Blue Angels Flight Demonstration team. The one-of a kind, specially painted cargo plane is a beloved member of the team. Logging over 140,000 flight miles per year, "Bert" handles the logistic, technical and mechanical support duties for the ground support team. Transporting an average load of 25,000 Ibs. of cargo and 45,000 Ibs. of fuel, the C-130 carries all the equipment and personnel needed to put on the famous Blue Angels flight demonstration.
Flown and maintained by an all Marine Corp crew, Fat Albert is fully equipped to handle any type of flight condition. Full electronic navigation and weather radar enables flight at a moments notice to fly off for special parts or equipment needed to service the demonstration team jets. Powered by four Allison turboprop engines, the mighty Hercules has been carrying the transport needs of the armed services since the 1950s!
Sometimes "Fat Albert" takes center stage at the airshows where the Blue Angels are performing. Demonstrating the tactical high performance "JATO" (jet assisted) take-off, the bulky cargo plane blasts skyward at a 45 degree angle! At take-off rotation speed, eight solid fuel rocket boosters attached to the fuselage, ignite a cascade of flame, sparks and smoke as the plane roars skyward. It is such an awesome display that some spectators claim it's more exciting than the jet formation!
Blue Angel number 7 is the two seat version of the F/A-18 carrier based fighter flown by the six jet formation. Often referred to as the "media jet", this aircraft is flown by the Blue Angels show narrator. The narrator describes the maneuvers to the audience, performs the VIP and media orientation flights, and helps with the set up and show organization.
Accompanied by the #8 pilot, the team airshow coordinator, jet #7 arrives at the demonstration site a few days ahead of the rest of the team. The two seat jet is first used to test safety gear and airport systems. Then, local selected members of the news media are scheduled to get "the ride of their lives", a coveted ride in a multi-million dollar Navy fighter! TV, radio and newspaper personalities report to the public on their experience, and help to built excitement for the upcoming airshow. The B model's unique rear seat also can provide an ideal place for a skilled photographer to acquire difficult close formation photos.
Another important role for Blue Angel #7 is flying as the back up jet for the 6 jet formation. Jet 7 is set up during the airshow demonstration for quick dispatch in the event of any mechanical problem on one of the single seat jets. The problem jet will land and the pilot hops into #7, takes off, and rejoins the formation to complete the sequence of maneuvers. The Navy takes great pride in the reliability and quality of maintenance program that supports the aircraft they fly. The #7 jet is always ready though whenever the need arises.