WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — The Navy’s Blue Angels stunt team will no longer perform the aerial maneuver that a pilot attempted during a fatal crash in June, and the team will implement a variety of other changes after an investigation found the pilot’s errors caused the crash, Navy officials said Thursday.
Marine Capt. Jeffrey Kuss, 32, was killed June 2 near Smyrna, Tenn., while preparing for the Great Tennessee Air Show. He crashed his F/A-18 Hornet after a rapid climb while attempting what’s known as an “Split S,” in which a plane turns in the opposite horizontal direction from which it came after a swooping dive, according to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act.
“In layman’s terms, he transitioned from the high performance climb to the Split S too low and too fast, and by not deselecting his afterburners during the maneuver, he continued to accelerate,” according to the Navy investigation’s report. “The net effect of these deviations was that the aircraft was simply too low and too fast to avoid impacting the ground.”
You’ll find video of the crash below.
Editor’s note: video contains explicit language
Kuss attempted to eject from the aircraft at the last second but did not do so in time, the report said. His cause of death was listed as blunt-force trauma.
The mistake resulted in the death of a respected and well-trained pilot. Partial cloud cover and possible fatigue of the pilot have also been released as contributing factors of the incident. Investigating officers noted that he did not sign a required “A-sheet” to formally accept his aircraft that day, turn on his transponder in the plane or turn off the afterburner despite saying over the radio he would do so, according to Navy documents.
The Split S has been removed from operations until further notice, putting in place dive recovery rules that have specific airspeed limitations, requiring the Blue Angels to use a greater safety buffer between aircraft and the ground for the remainder of the season, and ordering pilots to make positive radio confirmation with instruments that measure altitude prior to takeoff.
Vice Adm. Michael Shoemaker, commander of Naval Air Forces Pacific, wrote that Kuss represented “the best and brightest of Naval Aviation” and demonstrated professionalism, expertise and a love for flying that made him a valued member of the Blue Angels and the Marine Corps. But Shoemaker said that standard operating procedures must be followed.
He added that there is “tremendous” pressure on Blue Angels pilots to fly, even when they may not be up to it, because there are no substitutes in the squadron.
“Fundamentally, we will create an environment for the [Blue Angels] where each pilot feels empowered to speak up before or during a brief if they are not physically or mentally prepared to fly,” Shoemaker said. “We have well-established processes in the fleet for an aviator to ‘take a knee’ and tell the operations officer that he/she is not ready for a flight, and that freedom must be extended to the Blue Angels as well.”