Blue Angels Chief Relieved

Commander Dave Koss, the head of the Navy's Blue Angels, has "voluntarily" resigned after repeated unsafe maneuvers.

Commander Dave Koss, the head of the Navy’s Blue Angels, has “voluntarily” resigned after repeated unsafe maneuvers.

Marine Corps Times (“Blue Angels CO resigns after low fly-over“):

The commanding officer of the elite Blue Angels flight demonstration team stepped down Friday after a mere seven months in command following a “lower-than-normal maneuver” during a recent show that forced the cancellation of three of the team’s acrobatic performances, according to a Navy announcement.

The voluntary relief of Cmdr. Dave Koss of Orange Park, Fla., a 20-year F/A-18 pilot, came less than a week after he grounded the unit following a May 22 incident in which four of the team’s Hornets flying in a diamond formation completed a maneuver judged to have passed too low to the ground in Lynchburg, Va.

Koss was relieved by Rear Adm. Bill Sizemore, chief of Naval Air Training Command, according to a statement from Naval Air Forces.

“With deep personal regret I shared with my command today that I will be voluntarily leaving the greatest flight demonstration team. I performed a maneuver that had an unacceptably low minimum altitude,” Koss wrote in the statement. “This maneuver, combined with other instances of not meeting the airborne standard that makes the Blue Angels the exceptional organization that it is, let to my decision to step down.”

Koss will be replaced by Capt. Greg McWherter, previous CO of the Blue Angels, for the rest of the season.

The Blue Angels’ CO is assigned to the No. 1 jet; the team has seven jets and six typically take part in the demonstration while the seventh, a two-seater, is a backup and is used to fly civilian guests prior to the shows.

After the low maneuver last weekend, the team broke from routine and regrouped. The rest of the performance at the Lynchburg Regional Air Show in Virginia was canceled and the planes landed without incident, Blues spokeswoman Lt. Katie Kelly said. Following a debriefing, Koss and the team returned to Pensacola, Fla., the team’s home base, and Koss implemented a stand-down.

The Blues subsequently scrapped a practice session and an air show planned for last Tuesday and Wednesday in Annapolis, Md. On Thursday, the team announced it was canceling appearances at today’s Naval Academy graduation and at an air show in Millville, N.J., this weekend.

The relief of Koss means the Blues will also have to cancel their air shows at the Rockford Airfest June 4-5 and at the Evansville Freedom Festival Air Show June 11-12. The announcement said any other potential changes will be announced at a later date.

When Maverick did this in “Top Gun,” all he got was an ass chewing. But real lives were at stake here. Koss, it’s fair to say, is not a routine screw-up:

Koss, who assumed command of the Blues in November, is a 1991 Naval Academy graduate and veteran naval aviator who has amassed more than 3,000 flight hours and 740 arrested landings on carriers and garnered two awards for leadership during his career.

In addition to numerous other assignments, Koss took part in late 1990s flight operations over Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina and flew missions over Afghanistan and Iraq in support of those wars in 2001 and 2003, respectively. He assumed command of Strike Fighter Squadron 14 in November 2008 and led the unit during a deployment aboard the carrier Nimitz in support of the Afghanistan war.

One hopes his career survives this.

UPDATE, June 2, 2022: I stumbled on this old post and found that Koss not only survived but was promoted to Captain, commanded a fighter squadron, and the as the head of Naval ROTC at UT-Austin before retiring at the 30-year mark in 2021.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. john personna says:

    Have they started wearing underwear with those size-too-small flight suits? It’s all kinda gay to me.

  2. Chris Irwin says:

    John… what an intelligent comment.

  3. john personna says:

    Sorry, it was just my take-away from the air show. A little too Lt. Dangle.

  4. Susan says:

    Never have I seen such excellence, such power, such percision. There is no better performance. The Navy can be very proud and so can all the armed forces of this nation of US.
    May God bless and keep Commander Koss and may no harm come to him as a result of his resignation. What Integrity! May God be praised!!!!!