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The Blue Angels are a Navy flight demonstration squadron based in Pensacola, Florida during the show season and El Centro, California during the winter for pilot training. Founded in 1946 by order of Chester Nimitz, the Blue Angels perform at numerous venues across the United States every year to enhance recruiting efforts for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Service with the Blue Angels is voluntary, and the pilots and flight crew are evenly mixed between members of the Navy and Marine Corps. The team's stated mission is to serve as goodwill ambassadors for the Navy and Marine Corps and to be a positive representation of service in the United States Armed Forces.
In 2006, the Blue Angels flew Boeing F/A-18 Hornets for their aerial demonstrations. The jets cost approximately 18 million US dollars (USD) to manufacture, but when fully configured, they usually exceed 21 million USD in cost. At 56 feet (approximately 17 meters) long and 15 feet (4.5 meters) tall, the aircraft weigh a maximum of 56,000 pounds (25,401 kilos) at takeoff and have a flight radius of over 500 miles (804 kilometers). The Hornets can reach a top speed of over 1,200 miles per hour (1931 kilometers per hour) and are famous for their maneuverability, grace, and speed. The jets are decorated in a distinctive blue and gold style that is easily recognizable from the ground.
Members of the Blue Angels team serve for two years and then return to service within their branch of the armed forces. The Blue Angels is considered representative of the finest of the Navy and Marine Corps, and pilots are chosen for their ability, career goals, military bearing, and communication skills. Pilots must have a minimum of 1,250 jet flying hours and aircraft carrier certification in order to apply for a seat on the Blue Angels team, in addition to undergoing other screening processes. There are usually approximately six openings on the team per year.
The Blue Angels are famous for their high speed, low altitude aerial acrobatics and tight formations. While all Naval aviators possess the same skills as the Blue Angels, the team is considered to present a refinement and qualification of these skills, focused on presenting the best possible training and performance to the public. Features of their shows include the four-jet Diamond Formation and the six-jet Delta Formation. Both of these formations require a high level of nerve and skill, as the jets fly in close proximity to each other while maintaining a high speed. There are also two Solo Pilots on the team.
The Blue Angels maintain a very busy performance schedule and can can be seen all over the nation, or at Pensacola for practices. Spectators are encouraged to wear ear protection, as the Blue Angels can be extremely loud.