Navy officials have confirmed that a Blue Angels pilot was killed this afternoon after a crash near Smyrna, Tenn. Per military policy, the pilot’s name will not be released for 24 hours pending notification of the pilot’s next of kin.
However, multiple news organizations including the Associated Press are reporting that the plane involved was the #6 opposing solo jet, piloted by U.S. Marine Corps pilot Capt. Jeff Kuss of Durango, Colo.
Kuss joined the Blue Angels in September 2014 and had accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours and 175 carrier-arrested landings.
The crash took place at approximately 3:01 p.m. during the beginning stages of an afternoon practice, officials said, with the plane going down about two miles from the runway at Smyrna Airport. The cause of the crash, which officials called a “mishap,” has not yet been determined.
All other Blue Angels aircraft landed safely within moments of the crash. No civilians were injured, officials said.
The Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration team, is based in Pensacola. The team, which left Pensacola earlier Thursday, was scheduled to perform at this weekend’s Great Tennessee Airshow in Smyrna. No decision has been made on whether or not the airshow will go on as scheduled.
The crash came just hours after an Air Force jet crashed following a flyover at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colo. The pilot, a member of the Air Force’s Thunderbirds flight demonstration team, managed to safely eject from the plane.
Since the team’s establishment in 1946, 26 Blue Angels pilots have died in air accidents. The team’s last fatality occurred in 2007, when the F/A-18 Hornet piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Kevin J. Davis crashed during the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Airshow in Beaufort, S.C. In 2014, a Blue Angels jet slid off the runway amid icy conditions in Brunswick, Maine; no one was injured.
“I’m shocked and saddened to learn of the death of a Navy Blue Angel pilot who crashed just a few miles outside of Nashville, and just a few hours after the Blue Angels flew over downtown Nashville,” said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry in a statement. “The Blue Angels have served to inspire and instill national pride in men, women, and children throughout our country.” Barry ordered the city’s Metro Courthouse and Korean Veterans Bridge to be lit in blue and yellow in honor of the Blue Angels.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Blue Angels family,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward in a statement.