An F/A-18 Super Hornet with the Navy’s elite demonstration squadron crashed shortly after take-off Thursday, killing the pilot just days before a weekend air show performance, officials said
A U.S. official told the Associated Press that the pilot was Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. According to his official Blue Angels biography, Kuss joined the elite acrobatics team in 2014 and accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours.
Kuss was a native of Durango, Colorado, and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Marines in 2006. He previously served in Afghanistan before joining the Blue Angels.
An initial Navy incident report says the Blue Angels jet crashed just after takeoff in a residential area and the pilot is not believed to have ejected. The report identifies it as Blue Angels plane No. 6. There are no reports of any civilians injured or homes damaged.
The jet crashed at 3:01 p.m. in Smyrna, Georgia, according to AIRFOR spokeswoman Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew and the pilot and their families,” Groeneveld said.
An AIRFOR spokesman declined to confirm the pilot’s death until his family has been notified of the crash.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the Blue Angels after this tragic loss. I know that the Navy and Marine Corps Team is with me. We will investigate this accident fully and do all we can to prevent similar incidents in the future,” Adm. John Richardson, the Navy’s top officer, said in a Facebook post.
The rare Blues crash — the first in nearly a decade for the elite demonstration team, whose aviators are hand-picked to fly in tight formations and high-G force maneuvers — comes within hours of the crash of an Air Force F-16 Thunderbird after an Air Force Academy graduation flyby. The pilot ejected safely and is to be meet with President Obama.
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