Thursday, June 2 was a tragic day for the military. The Army, Navy, and Air Force each had separate incidents resulting in 10 fatalities. At Fort Hood in Texas, soldiers participating in a training exercise found their truck swept away by swift floodwaters killing nine soldiers in the vehicle. In Tennessee, the Navy Blue Angels flight team was practicing for an air show. An unknown error caused plane number six to go down in a field, resulting in an explosion and fire killing the pilot, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss when he was not able to eject. In Colorado, the US Air Force Thunderbirds had just completed a fly over at Air Force Academy graduation. President Obama, in attendance with the graduates, watched as the graduates tossed their caps in the air as the planes flew overhead. Another unknown error caused plane number six to go down in a field, this pilot, Major Alex Turner, was able to eject and he was relatively uninjured in his landing.
News of two unrelated crashes from both the premiere flight squadrons, within hours, has shaken the community. The delight these teams bring to audiences across the nation as they perform at air shows is unmatched. They inspire a young generation who see the jets perform acrobatic feats that seem impossible.
The shows become family affairs, bringing people together to celebrate and enjoy the most thrilling show of a lifetime. Nicholas Rodgers remembers the excitement, anticipation and intensity of the Blue Angels performance in 1995 when he was visiting his Uncle in St. Louis, MO. “We watched from the driveway. We had a barbecue and set up a bunch of lawn chairs on a hill so we had a 45-degree angle to watch. We weren’t so close that the sounds were extremely loud but we could feel it when they zoomed by.”
After the crashes, questions arise. Are these shows safe? Are these shows worth the taxpayers’ money that is spent? F-16s each cost approximately $18.8 million while the F/A-18’s costs about $26 million per plane. What about the loss of life, is that worth it? A San Francisco lawmaker has revived a proposal to ban the Blue Angels flight path be restricted to the San Francisco Bay area, avoiding any occupied land areas.
AP journalism student Jennifer Hickok in Redlands, California, contributed to this blog.