SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A pilot with the Navy’s elite Blue Angel flight squadron was killed after an F/A-18 fighter jet crashed Thursday afternoon in Smyrna, Tennessee.
The Blue Angels were practicing ahead of the now-cancelled Great Tennessee Airshow this weekend.
The aircraft crashed at 3 p.m. about two miles from the runway. Authorities arrived within minutes.
The U.S. Navy confirmed the pilot died in the crash. While military officials have not identified the pilot, the Associated Press said it is Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss.
According to the Blue Angels, Capt. Kuss is a native of Durango, Colorado. He joined the Blue Angels in September 2014 and has accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours and 175 carrier-arrested landings.
His decorations include the Strike Flight Air Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various personal and unit awards.
The other five Blue Angel jets were not involved in the incident and landed safely moments later.
The investigation will be led by the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. military.
WAVY News sister station WKRN has learned the flight team will no longer participate in the Great Tennessee Airshow being held at the Smyra airport this weekend in the wake of the pilot’s death.
Friday’s previously scheduled lecture by the Blue Angels on the MTSU campus has also been cancelled. However, representatives from the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team are still scheduled to appear.
The rest of the airshow will go on as scheduled, although officials with the Smyrna airport say they deeply saddened by the devastating accident.
“Show management has discussed the relative advantages and disadvantages of continuing the show. After close consultation with the Blue Angels, regulatory officials and the performers, we have made the decision to carry on with this weekend’s show,” said John Black, Executive Director of the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport.
Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations said Friday, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the Blue Angels after this tragic loss. I know that the Navy and Marine Corps Team is with me. We will investigate this accident fully and do all we can to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
The Blue Angels were last in Hampton Roads in September of 2015 for the NAS Oceana Air Show.
The Blue Angels crash was the second fighter jet crash of the day. A member of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds crashed in Colorado following a flyover for the Air Force Academy graduation where President Barack Obama spoke. That pilot ejected safely.
Stay on WAVY.com for developments in this story.