One of the Navy Blue Angels’ iconic blue and yellow F/A-18C Hornets was offloaded at Honolulu Harbor Tuesday and will be trucked to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum Thursday to become the newest and youngest addition to the museum’s 46-aircraft collection.
Blue Angels No. 4 was offloaded by Hawaii Stevedores, Inc. following trans-Pacific shipment via Pasha Hawaii’s M/V Jean Anne. Some motorists may catch sight of the jet on a flatbed as it makes its way to Ford Island Thursday.
The public also is invited to come to the museum Wednesday to Friday next week to watch the Hornet be unloaded and reassembled, officials said.
The aircraft, on loan from the Navy, left Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida – home of the Blue Angels – for its final flight in late 2020, before arriving at Naval Air Station North Island, in San Diego, the museum said. There it was “demilitarized,” had its wings removed, and was prepared for shipment.
“The Blue Angels are larger than life and have left audiences thunderstruck for 75 years,” Elissa Lines, executive director of the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, said in a release. “We are honored to display this Blue Angel F/A-18C, a symbol of strength, discipline, and innovation, within the context of our historic site. It will be a source of inspiration, especially for youth who dream of flight.”
The museum said that normally, aircraft off-loads are conducted after hours. But the Hornet “will be off-loaded and positioned inside historic Hangar 79 in full view of the public” on Friday, officials said.
Once positioned inside the hangar, the public will be able to watch as a restoration team and volunteers reassemble the aircraft, the museum said. The dates next week are tentative and are subject to change, it said.
The Navy’s last F-18 “legacy” squadron stopped flying older versions of the jets in 2019. Newer F/A-18E/F Super Hornets entered fleet service in 1999 as the replacement for the F-14 Tomcat. Super Hornets are about 20% bigger, 7,000 pounds heavier, and carry 33% more fuel.
The Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron conducted a final flight with the F/A-18 A/B/C/D legacy variant on Nov. 4 — signifying its official transition to the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet platform.
The 2020 show season marked the end of the service life of the aircraft the team had flown for 34 years. The 2021 show season — the Blue Angels’ 75th anniversary year — is their first year flying the Super Hornet platform.
The Navy “decided to loan out these (older) Hornets to different aviation museums — so we were one of the lucky recipients,” said Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum Director of Marketing Kalli Abernathy.
Oahu residents who want to see things move a bit faster with an F-18 Hornet — say about 700 mph — will have to wait until 2022 for the next show in the Isles by the fabled flight demonstration team.
A schedule released by the Navy shows the Blue Angels zooming over the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps base Aug. 13-14 next year.
The Blue Angels haven’t visited Hawaii since 2015. A planned 2017 air show was canceled due to an unspecified “schedule change,” so it will be seven years between appearances by the Hornet aircraft that thrill with close-quarters formation flying and high-speed low-level passes.
The closest the four-aircraft “diamond” flies is 18 inches apart. The fastest speed is the 700 mph “sneak pass” (just under Mach 1) and the slowest speed is about 120 mph, both flown by the two solo pilots during the show.
During their 76th air show season in 2022, the Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 63 demonstrations at 32 locations, the Navy said.
“The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach,” the Navy said.
Since 1946, the Blue Angels have performed for more than 500 million fans.
The Blue Angels’ C-130, affectionately known as Fat Albert, begins each demonstration by exhibiting its maximum performance capabilities during a ten-minute performance, the demonstration team said.
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.