Former Blue Angels F/A-18C prepared for permanent display

The US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) is preparing a Boeing F/A-18C Hornet – formerly operated by the service’s Blue Angels demonstration team – for permanent display at Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island in California.

The aircraft was flown directly to NAS North Island from the home of the US Navy Blue Angels at NAS Pensacola, Florida, after being withdrawn from operational use in November 2020. It is now being demilitarised and prepared by the FRCSW to serve as a permanent, pedestaled display in the courtyard of the Commander, Naval Air Forces’ (CNAF’s) offices at North Island. The former multi-role fighter turned dark blue display aircraft will go on display at its new home in early April.

Blue Angels F/A-18C [US Navy]
A Boeing F/A-18C Hornet, formerly operated by the US Navy's Blue Angels demonstration team, is towed to the command's test line at NAS North Island, California, on February 24. The aircraft is currently being demilitarised ahead of being placed on permanent display in the courtyard of the CNAF's offices at the base. US Navy

Ehren Terbeek, F/A-18 Legacy and F/A-18E/F programme manager with the FRCSW, said: “CNAF requested a Blue Angel and with the legacy Blue Angel platform no longer being required, they were able to secure this aircraft for their request… We have demilitarised aircraft numerous times to varying degrees. For a Hornet, it’s mostly engine removals as well as all explosive ordnance and fuel and hydraulic fluid.”

In total, the project will take approximately 300 hours to complete. Terbeek added that the FRCSW would also remove the Hornet’s wings prior to its installation in the CNAF courtyard, before reattaching them when the main fuselage is in place.

Having entered service with the US Navy in 1988, this particular F/A-18C spent the majority of its operational career employed by the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) at NAS Fallon, Nevada. However, in 2017, the multi-role fighter was transferred to NAS Pensacola for use by the Blue Angels in air displays across the US.

The demonstration team has shared a long history with the legacy Hornet, having operated the platform since November 1986 – almost 35 years. This year marks a big milestone for the Blue Angels, as the team marks its 75th anniversary and transitions to the newer Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighter.

This aircraft is the second former Blue Angels-operated legacy Hornet to be demilitarised by FRCSW in 2021. In January, the centre prepared another F/A-18C for transportation and preservation at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum in Hawaii.