WATCH: The Blue Angels C-130 Named ‘Fat Albert’ Takes Off with JATO Rockets

November 19, 2020Matt Fratus
Blue Angels Fat Albert C-130 coffee or die

Blue Angels “Fat Albert.” Photo courtesy of the Blue Angels.

One of the leading aerial platforms in the US military’s arsenal when it comes to versatility is the C-130. Throughout history, the C-130 has participated in some of the most critical mission essential operations, from the Hurricane Hunters and gunship support to wildfire suppression and science expeditions in Antarctica. The C-130’s capabilities and accomplishments are close to unbelievable — unless, of course, there is video evidence to prove it, which is exactly what happened in 1963 when it became the largest and heaviest aircraft to successfully land on an aircraft carrier.

Following World War II, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Chester W. Nimitz ordered the organization of a flight demonstration team to maintain public interest in naval aviation. In only three months the Navy Flight Exhibition Team was established and completed its first demonstration in the summer of 1946. It was the second formal flying demonstration team in the world, behind Patrouille de France, which formed in 1931. The Navy Flight Exhibition Team was first introduced as the Blue Angels at an air show in Omaha, Nebraska, in July 1946. The name stuck and has been synonymous with the team ever since. 

Before the C-130 was added to its operations in 1970, the Blue Angels utilized four other logistical support aircraft: R4D Sky Train, R5C Commando, R5D Skymaster, and the C-121 Super Constellation. The Blue Angels C-130 is affectionately known as Fat Albert and is operated entirely by a US Marine Corps aircrew. Fat Albert’s name is in reference to its large size and shape, and in homage to the Fat Albert cartoon that was popular during the 1970s. 

In November 1975, Fat Albert’s first “JATO” (jet-assisted take-off) performance took place at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Each of the eight solid fuel JATO rocket bottles contained 1,000 pounds of thrust that helped propel Fat Albert into the sky. Unfortunately, these JATO rocket bottles were last produced during the Vietnam War era, and the team’s stockpiles were depleted during the 2009 season, the year this video was taken. The latest plane to be known as the Blue Angels’ Fat Albert arrived in August 2020, escorted by F-18 Hornets.

Matt Fratus
Matt Fratus

Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.

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