HELLCATS and BEARCATS

n 1946 Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation began a relationship with the US Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels that lasted until late 1968. During those 22 years, the team flew the best fighters in US Navy inventory; coincidentally they were all Grumman Cats.

2001 marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Blue Angels, and today marks the beginning of a four-part installment on Grumman’s relationship with the Navy’s "Ambassadors in Blue".

Officially known as the US Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron, the team was created shortly after World War Two when CNO Admiral Chester W. Nimitz ordered the formation of a flight exhibition team that would showcase naval aviation. The unnamed team was formed on April 24, 1946 and performed its first flight demonstration at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida’s Craig Field, on June 15 of the same year. Led by Lt. Cmdr. Roy M. "Butch" Voris, the team was equipped with three Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats.

Although the name Blue Lancers had been assigned in early July 1946, it was never accepted. On July 19, Lt. Cmdr. Voris announced the team would be known as the Blue Angels. Just two months after the first demonstration, the team transitioned to the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat and flew their initial demonstration on August 24. In 1947 the second Flight Leader, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Clarke, added a fourth Bearcat to the formation and produced the diamond formation, which became the Blue Angel trademark. By 1949 "Blue Angels" was added to both sides of the cowl.