Friday afternoon, June 3, 2016, at approximately 3 PM the US Navy Blue Angel Exhibition Team, while practicing for this weekend’s upcoming air show near Nashville, Tennessee, lost its number 6 F-18 Hornet Fighter in a fatal crash. The pilot, seen below, was USMC Capt. Jeff Kuss of Durango, CO, an experienced combat aviator and graduate of the Navy’s famous Top Gun program. The fatal incident caused the Navy to cancel the planned Air Show near Nashville.
Only two hours earlier, immediately following a successful fly-over of the Air Force Academy Graduation ceremony at which President Obama addressed the graduating Cadets, the Thunderbird Team’s Number 6, F-16 Falcon, malfunctioned. But its pilot, Major Alex Turner, managed to head the jet away from nearby populated areas and successfully ejected at low altitude without any injuries. The $36 million Falcon jet crashed at a shallow angle of decent without burning and remained largely intact, as can be seen in the bottom photo. Major Turner was picked up by the President’s Secret Service Detail Helicopter shortly after he touched down in a field, only a few miles from the Academy. The President arranged to speak to the Major and thanked him for his service – and expressed his relief that the aviator was not injured.
Friday’s tragic pair of crashes of the Navy and Air Force’s Number 6 exhibition jets had never happened before. While both exhibition teams have had numerous crashes and fatalities over the years, they had never both lost ships on the same day.
The local newspaper, “The Tennessean” has several short video clips of the incident and of the Blue Angel’s Commander, speaking to the public about the disaster shortly after the team landed after the accident. This link also has another 44 additional photos relating to the incident.