Blue Angels Legacy Hornets Retired

Photographs by photography team, except where noted.

The United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Blue Angels, recently flew their “sundown” voyage with their F/A-18 Legacy Hornets. The term “Legacy” refers to early model McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18 model A/B/C/D Hornets. The Team is in the process of re-equipping with newer F/A-18E and -F Super Hornets.

Final Legacy flight over Pensacola… (U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Jess Gray)
201103-N-OY339-1928 PENSACOLA, Fla. (Nov. 3, 2020) The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, conducted a final combined flight with the F/A-18 Hornet and the new F/A-18 Super Hornet in preparation for the transition to the Super Hornet. The Blue Angels are officially transitioning to the Super Hornet for the 75th anniversary and 2021 show season. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Gordon)

A formation flight was performed along the western panhandle of Florida and eastern Alabama coastline on Wednesday November 4, 2020 to mark the final Legacy presentation. The airspace is where they are a familiar sight, due to their home base at NAS Pensacola, Florida. The formation flight ended fittingly over Pensacola Beach, just as the sun was setting.

NAS PENSACOLA, Fla. – The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, will conduct one final formation flight of six F/A-18 A/B/C/D “Legacy” Hornets, Nov. 04 from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST. The final flight of the Legacy Hornets signifies the official transition of the Blue Angels to the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet platform. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Gordon)

The Squadron’s history with the Legacy Hornets began as the team transitioned from Douglas A-4 Skyhawks to early model F/A-18A (single seat) and –B (twin seat) jets in 1986 – the team’s 40th year since its inception.

Blue Angels F/A-18C departing NAS Pensacola, Florida.

The Blue Angels transitioned to the newer F/A-18C and D versions in 2010.

In 2020, the Squadron’s 74th season ended with the introduction of the Super Hornet. Unfortunately, historians and enthusiasts got very little opportunity to see a final air show performance in the Legacy airframes, as the 2020 season was almost entirely cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Legacy Hornets lined up… the 7 jet is normally a twin seat -B or -D version jet.

The new Super Hornets have a longer fuselage than the Legacy models – by just over four feet. The Super Hornet’s wings are larger too, with a 4 foot, 4 inch increase in span in the newer version, and a large wing area increase from 410 square feet to 500 square feet. The two General Electric F-414 power plants produce 2,000 more pounds of thrust each in the Super Hornet over the Legacy F-404s, which is more than adequate to handle the 9,000 pound increase of the newer airframe over the older variant.

Differences in performance and flight controls between the two versions of aircraft meant that Boeing was contracted in 2018 to adapt new software to allow the newer airframes to respond in different manners needed for the Blue Angels flight routine. Some flight parameters such as inverted flight time (60 seconds limit in the Legacy, just 40 seconds so far in the Super Hornet) might be expanded, or the flight routine changed to accommodate different limits in the new jets.

200504-N-DG679-249 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (May 4, 2020) Aircraft mechanics from Fleet Readiness Center Southeast configure the first freshly painted F/A-18 Super Hornet with the Blue Angels signature paint at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in preparation of transport to Boeing Global Services Cecil Field for final assembly. The Super Hornet will become the fourth Boeing platform to be used by the Blue Angels flight demonstration team. (U.S. Navy Photo by Toiete Jackson/Released)

The Blue Angels’ new mounts are the oldest Super Hornets in the Fleet; some 18 airframes of the earliest Block builds are targeted for their use. Eleven jets will be ready for the 2021 season, including nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F (two seat) jets.

Our Gallery is filled with twenty-four photos of the Blue Angels Legacy Hornets, taken by twelve of our contributors. Another Gallery will follow in a few weeks, stay tuned to see more fantastic Blue Angels Legacy Hornet photos!

“The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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