PENSACOLA | The US Navy Blue Angels officially retired their C-130 support plane, affectionately known as “Fat Albert”, on Wednesday 22nd May.
The aircraft, which joined the team in 2002, has had a decreased presence on the airshow circuit for the past few years after long-running maintenance and fleet groundings.
The Blue Angels described the retirement as “a bittersweet day”, saying that Fat Albert had served the Blue Angels “honorably” and accumulated over 30,000 flight hours with the team. They said: “While this may come as a shock to many of our fans, we have known this day was coming. Fat Albert will enjoy her retirement as a ground-based training aid in Fort Worth, Texas.”
The C-130T, which was formerly a much-loved part of the Blue Angels’ show, made its flying display debut at the Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow at Pensacola in 2002. In 2009 it became the last Hercules to use JATO rockets on take-off.
The aircraft was grounded in August 2016 for maintenance, when it was discovered that a complete overhaul was required. A year later, the entire C-130T fleet was grounded after a fatal accident. She re-joined the team in July 2018, but has rarely flown for the public since then.
The Blue Angels will use fleet-provided aircraft for transport and logistics until a permanent replacement can be identified. It has been speculated that the US Navy may acquire a C-130J Hercules C.5 from the Royal Air Force for this purpose.