Blue Angels' Fat Albert Helps Recruiters With Pa. Visit
By SSgt. Daniel Jones
| | February 21, 2001
RSS JOHNSTOWN, Pa. --
Look! Up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... Fat Albert? Yes, Fat Albert visited RSS Johnstown, Pa., Feb. 21, but it's not the Fat Albert you're thinking of. This Fat Albert is the aircraft used for transporting supplies and equipment for the world famous Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron.
Fat Albert, a TC-130 operated by an all-Marine crew, carries a normal show load of 25,000 pounds of cargo, 45,000 pounds of fuel, and transports the squadron's maintenance crew to each show.
The Fat Albert crew, consisting of three officers and five enlisted Marines, visited RSS Johnstown to lend a hand in the recruiting effort.
Gunnery Sgt. Rick Morning, a flight engineer with the Blue Angels, said that the crew will usually help the local recruiting effort wherever the Blue Angels are performing.
"We called the local recruiters and Headquarters Marine Corps to find out where we could be best used," said Morning, of Altoona, Pa.
The Fat Albert crew spoke to students at Central, Tyrone Area, Penn Cambria and Somerset High Schools, according to Gunnery Sgt. Reid Henderson, a flight engineer and Beaufort, S.C. native.
"Meeting different people at shows is probably the best part of our job," Henderson said. "We are performing at approximately 70 shows in 34 locations including Quebec, Canada."
The Blue Angels conduct their winter training in El Centro, CA, from Jan. 3 to March 10.
According to Henderson, the shows usually begin in March and last until Nov. 10. Between November and January the team members perform maintenance and inspections on the aircraft as well as spend quality time with their families.
"The hardest times are being away from our families," Henderson said. "We are gone up to 200 days a year."
"You must have a strong family," added Morning, who was selected for duty after a rigorous application process. "Applying for the Blue Angels is similar to rushing a fraternity. Once you apply for this duty, you have to meet with several team members to see if you are compatible with the other members."
"This is a very personality based team," added Henderson, who is one of more than 110 Navy and Marine enlisted personnel who maintain the Blue Angels.
Although the F/A-18s are the show planes, Fat Albert sometimes gets the spotlight. Fat Albert performs a Jet-Assisted-Take-Off (JATO) at numerous shows.
During these take-offs, Fat Albert has eight solid fuel rockets attached to the sides of the aircraft, four on each side just forward of the rear paratroop doors. These rockets give Fat Albert the capability to take-off within 1,500 feet, climb at a 45-degree angle and attain 1,000 feet of altitude in minimal time. It's maneuverability and short-field assault capabilities are demonstrated by 60-degree angle-of-bank-turns, a high-speed-low-altitude pass and a short-field landing.
With all of it capabilities, Fat Albert along with its crew make for one large recruiting tool.