The Blue Angels, expected to return to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort’s air show in 2011, will lack one part of its repertoire.
The Blue Angels’ C-130T Hercules, known as Fat Albert, will perform its jet-assisted takeoff for the last time at an airshow Nov. 14 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
Originally designed to thrust C-130s upward under short conditions, jet-assisted takeoff, or JATO, has been part of Fat Albert’s repertoire since 1975, the Navy Times is reporting. The primary mission of the jet, which is manned by an All-Marine crew, is to transport crew members, spare jet parts, communication equipment and anything else the Blue Angels might need to perform. The jet will continue to haul equipment and crew members and perform as part of the squadron’s show.
“Everyone in the Fat Albert shop is really sad,” Maj. Drew Hess, the Blue Angels’ senior C-130 pilot, told the Navy Times. “It is a significant chapter (in the team’s history) that unfortunately is being closed.”
To perform the takeoff, eight solid-fuel, 150-pound rocket bottles are attached to the side of Fat Albert to thrust the jet skyward. Climbing at a 45-degree angle, Fat Albert reaches 1,000 feet in about 15 seconds.
The squadron has had to ration a dwindling supply of rocket bottles, as the Corps hasn’t used JATO in combat since Vietnam War and the team’s budget doesn’t allow them to buy more, the Navy Times reported. The paper didn’t state the cost of each bottle.
As a result, Fat Albert’s crew has had to pare the number of JATO performances to about 20 a year. This year, the team will perform only 13, Hess said.
Fat Albert did not perform a JATO during either of its two performances in Beaufort in May.
To watch Fat Albert takeoff with the assistance of eight rocket bottles, see the video below.