The U.S. Navy decided Friday to temporarily suspend all flights by its Blue Angels aerial demonstration team, one day after a crash in Tennessee killed a young pilot.
The flight team had been practicing near Smyrna, Tenn., on Thursday, in preparation for an air show this weekend, when one of the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets crashed moments after takeoff.
Capt. Jeff Kuss was killed in the crash, the Navy said. Kuss had been on the Blue Angels team for only two years, and 2016 was his first as an actual demonstration pilot, the Navy said.
“The Navy and aviation team is grieving the loss of one of our own. Capt. Kuss was an incredible Marine, husband and father, and an inspiration to so many; his loss will be felt across the nation,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, said. “Being a Naval Aviator is an inherently dangerous profession and our aviators knowingly accept that risk in service to their nation; but it still pains us greatly when we experience the untimely loss of a valued aviator and shipmate.”
Kuss, 32, was from Durango, Colo., officials said. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
Additionally, the military branch said, all flights of the Blue Angels team have been suspended until further notice. Also, it will not participate in the Great Tennessee Air Show this weekend.
“The Navy’s Flight Demonstration team will conduct a one-time flight back to Naval Air Station Pensacola (Fla.) at which time they will begin a stand down (operational pause) for an undetermined amount of time,” the Navy said in a news release Friday. “This stand down will give investigation officials time to gather facts and ensure the continued safe operations of the squadron.”
Thursday’s crash was the second military fighter jet to crash within a couple hours. Earlier, an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon went down near Colorado Springs after performing a flyover at the academy’s commencement ceremony, which was attended by President Barack Obama.