160616-N-WJ386-047 PENSACOLA, Fla. (June 16, 2016) U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, begin training flights in preparation to resume the team’s Pensacola practice and air show season schedules. The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andrea Perez/Released)
Pensacola residents were treated to a pleasant surprise Thursday morning when the Blue Angels took to the sky over the beach and downtown for the first time in two weeks, since a deadly crash at a Tennessee air show practice claimed the life of their No. 6 pilot.
The Navy's elite demonstration squadron has ended its operational pause and is planning to replace the late Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, Naval Air Forces spokesman Steve Fiebing told Navy Times.
"We’ll probably be making an announcement on that before the end of the week," he said, but couldn't elaborate on whether the team is looking to promote its No. 7 F/A-18 Hornet pilot, Lt. Tyler Davies, who serves as the narrator during airshows.
Thursday morning's practice only featured five of six aircraft used in the squadron's air show, and they will continue to train with five aircraft until a replacement is named, Fiebing said.
The team will put one of its four back-up Hornets into the show rotation, he added.
A safety investigation report and command investigation are still underway to determine the cause of the crash, but the team is finalizing plans to resume its 2016 schedule.
For now, the Navy's tactical demonstration teams from VFA-106 and VFA-122, the fleet's F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet replacement squadrons, have filled in at air shows in Syracuse, New York, and this weekend's in Dayton, Ohio.
Friends, family and teammates mourned
Marine Capt. Jeff
Kuss on June 9 at Naval Air Station Pensacola before his body flow
n home to Durango, Colorado, for a Saturday funeral.
The operational pause ended the day after the team celebrated its 70th anniversary, and a second flight is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Pensacola, Fiebing said.
The Blue Angels' next scheduled appearance is at the Vero Beach Air Show in Florida on June 25.
The deployment of the USS Reagan, homeported at Naval Station Yokosuka, Japan, kicked off in May. It entered the 5th Fleet’s area of operations at the end of June to relieve the aircraft carrier Eisenhower.