From One Hornet to Another

Aircorps Art Dec 2019

While this news is a little old, we thought our readers would enjoy hearing details about the recent addition to the National Naval Aviation Museum. In the year of COVID-19, air show crowds around the United States did not have the opportunity to witness traditional flight demonstrations by the Blue Angels. Their sole public appearances were special flyovers around the United States, sometimes in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and one final formation flight around the team’s home base in Pensacola, FL.

These flights represented the last ones for the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, an aircraft flown by the team since 1987. The Blue Angels will celebrate their 75th anniversary in 2021 flying their first new aircraft in decades, the F/A-18E Super Hornet.

As the manager of the Navy’s aircraft loan program, the National Naval Aviation Museum has had no trouble placing a number of the retired Hornets with the distinctive blue and gold paint scheme in museums around the country. On January 13th the Yankee Air Museum received F/A-18C Bu.163485 which served with VFA-83 “Rampagers” during the first Gulf War in 1991. Ss readers might recall from our article last November, the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum was one of the first, obtaining their own example after its November 18th, 2020 flight to Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia for display at NASM’s Udvar-Hazy Center annex nearby. The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum has had as well the good fortune to receive their own example. On February 2nd, they too welcomed one of these iconic blue and gold jets into their collection, this being F/A-18C Bu.163768, the former Blue Angel #4. Others were earmarked for a different purpose; their parts will help make two other Hornets whole for eventual display.

This pair of F/A-18Cs, perhaps the most historic in history because LCDR Mark Fox and LT Nick Mongillo each shot down an Iraqi MiG-21 while flying them in Operation Desert Storm, arrived at the museum in summer 2019 missing many parts. The skilled staff and volunteers of the museum’s Aircraft Restoration Division have been putting together the puzzle using components from jets that for years have wowed tens of thousands of people. The result is a patchwork of blue and gray for now that will eventually be masked by the Desert Storm paint scheme of the VFA-81 Sunliners. The first of the restored jets, Bureau Number 163508 flown by Fox, should be completed in early 2021, the 30th anniversary of the air campaign in which it flew into history.


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