A cormorant flying through the sky met an early demise Tuesday when it was hit by a Navy Blue Angels F/A-18 E Hornet traveling at least 120 mph during a flight rehearsal.
The Blue Angels were practicing for their flight demonstration during the Naval Academy Commissioning Week when boaters watching the show from the water saw a bird smacked down by a jet, as first reported by WNAV reporter Donna Cole.
Small aircraft parts were also dropped into the water and onto boats positioned in the Severn River near the 450 bridge. Natural Resources Police spokesperson Lauren Moses said officers were patrolling the area for security reasons and quickly secured the dead cormorant. Police did not obtain any aircraft parts, she said. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.
A spokesperson for the Blue Angels said the bird strike minorly damaged some “flight control surfaces” of one of the F/A-18 E Hornets in the squadron.
“The aircraft damage was repaired by the squadron’s maintainers and did not impact flight operations or the performance yesterday,” Lt. Chelsea Dietlin said in a statement to WNAV. Dietlin added the Blue Angels will evaluate their Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program to minimize “wildlife hazards.”
The Blue Angels are scheduled to fly over Navy-Marine Corps Stadium at 10:04 a.m. Friday for graduation that is restricted to students and their guests during the coronavirus pandemic. Vice President Kamala Harris is giving the commencement address, which is traditionally given by the United States president, vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of the Navy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations or another distinguished speaker.
Although graduation has capacity restrictions, anchoring a boat in the Severn River to watch the Navy precision flight team is a great Annapolis tradition on its own. Some residents boated out to watch the annual flight rehearsal Tuesday and the demonstration Wednesday.
The Blue Angels flew over the academy last year as part of the salute to graduating midshipmen, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the pilots to cancel their shows.
Six rumbling jets make up a squadron that performs spectacular rolls, turns, spirals and other aerial acrobatics in formation. Jets range in speed from 120 mph to a maximum 700 mph, nearing the speed of sound. In one maneuver, the Diamond 360, the planes fly inches apart from each other. One single F/A-18 A Hornet costs around $21 million, according to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels organization based in Pensacola, Florida. The Navy flight school is based in Pensacola.
No one was injured by the falling bird or plane parts.
Reporter Bill Wagner contributed to this report.
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