May 1982


Published in the May 1982 issue of Naval Aviation News
Author: Lt. Morgan Smith Photographer: PH2 David Loveall

"Blue Angel Nine, this is Sherman Tower, you’re cleared for takeoff on zero seven left."

"Roger, Blue Angel Nine, cleared and switching. Have a good day and see you on Sunday."


Blue Angel Nine, the Marine Corps’ C-130 Hercules which supports the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, is the white, blue and gold multiengine transport that always sits near the runway where the Blue Angels perform. The C-130, known to the squadron as "Fat Albert," has become the most important aircraft in the Blue Angels’ inventory.

The second aircraft of its type to be assigned to the squadron, the current C-130 is in its eighth year of continuous service with the Blues. During the annual eight-month air show season, Fat Albert flies the equivalent of eleven and one-half times around the world. Taking off from NAS Pensacola, Fla., on the Thursday morning prior to the departure of the demonstration jets, the C-130 flies to the weekend show site to prepare for their arrival. "Fat Albert has missed only one air show in 11 years and that was because of the fodded engine. However, the show went on, thanks to assistance provided by another Marine Corps C-130 squadron," said Major Ken Hines, one of the Blues’ C-130 Marine pilots.

The Marine Corps’ Flying Billboard, as Maj. Hines calls Fat Albert, is one of the Marine Corps’ contributions to the Navy and Marine Corps recruiting effort.

 Packed with twelve and one-half tons of spare parts, support equipment and 30 maintenance crewmen, the C-130 is the first to arrive and the last to leave each show site.

Fat Albert is manned by an all-Marine crew. The pilots, Majors Chip Perrault and Ken Hines and Captain Charlie Meyer, and the crew consisting of GySgts. Jesse Wagstaff and Herb Vogt and SSgts. Dale Tinline, Dan Speaker and Dave Eckley, ensure that the Blues’ maintenance crew and support equipment arrive safely.

The Blue Angel maintenance crew refers to the C-130 transport as Fat Albert Airlines as it keeps a regular schedule between mid-March and mid-November, flying to more than 45 cities around the U.S. and Canada. While at air show sites the big bird stands ready to provide logistical support to the squadron. Fat Albert has helped the Blues maintain their proud tradition of never canceling an air show because of maintenance difficulties.

Twice a year, Fat Albert demonstrates the short takeoff capabilities of the C-130 when it performs a jet assisted takeoff (JATO). It is then that Fat Albert gets a chance to come from behind the scenes and demonstrate one of the roles that has made the C-130 legendary. With eight solid propellant rocket bottles attached to the fuselage, Fat Albert leaps into the air on just under 1,000 feet of runway. The eight JATO bottles collectively produce more the 8,000 pounds of additional thrust and burn for approximately 15 seconds, enabling the aircraft to become airborne in one-quarter the normal takeoff distance.

Sunday evening, following the conclusion of the weekend air show, the brightly painted C-130 once again returns home to NAS Pensacola. When the chocks are finally in place and the engines are shut down, the 30 maintenance support crewmen say goodbye to the C-130 until the following week when they start the process all over again.

Without Fat Albert standing by, it would be difficult for the Blue Angels to complete their show schedule with the success and perfection that has made them famous.

 Above, the all Marine C-130 crew (l-r):

SSgt. Dave Eckley, SSgt. Dale Tinline, Maj. Ken Hines, GySgt. Herb Vogt, SSgt. Dan Speaker, Capt. Charlie Meyer and GySgt. Jesse Wagstaff