Touched by an Angel

Silas Stephan of the Air Mobility Command in Dover captured this image of the Blue Angels’ C130T — known as “Fat Albert” on Tuesday afternoon as it carried the body of Captain Jeff Kuss, the Blue Angels pilot who was killed in a crash June 2 in Tennessee, back to Pensacola, Florida.

Silas Stephan of the Air Mobility Command in Dover captured this image of the Blue Angels’ C130T — known as “Fat Albert” on Tuesday afternoon as it carried the body of Captain Jeff Kuss, the Blue Angels pilot who was killed in a crash June 2 in Tennessee, back to Pensacola, Florida.

DOVER — Silas Stephan captured a touching moment a few days ago with his camera.

From the Air Mobility Command Museum, he photographed a blue and gold transport plane leaving Dover Air Force Base.

On the nose, the number 6 was painted.

Likely, only a few people in the area or those on the base recognized it as a Blue Angels plane.

The C-130T Hercules — also known as “Fat Albert” — was carrying the body of Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, the pilot of the No. 6 Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet that crashed just after takeoff for a practice session in Tennessee on June 2.

“I saw this plane take off, not knowing what it was (except that it is not AF colors),” wrote Alexandra Casat on the AMC Museum Facebook page. “Saddened now to find out. Rest in peace, Captain. And peace to your family. You are a hero for all.”

From the Editor logo copy copyThe body of Capt. Kuss was flown to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at Dover Air Force Base after the accident.

Several people at the museum for a PT Cruisers gathering when the C-130T flew in on Saturday, June 4.

The C-130T crew returned to Dover Tuesday to bring Capt. Kuss back to Pensacola Air Naval Station where the Blue Angels are based for a memorial service.

Thousands of people turned out Tuesday night in Pensacola Beach to watch the C-130T fly in.

One of the F/A-18 Hornet planes led the procession in the sky.

Cmdr. Ryan J. Bernacchi — commander of the Blue Angels — invited the public to pay their respects on Tuesday evening.

“Jeff absolutely loved our Sunday evening arrivals,” Cmdr. Bernacchi said in the message.

“Flying in over downtown, ‘smokin’ the beach’ from Pensacola to Perdido, and then the hitting the Delta Pitch Up Break at sunset into Naval Air Station Pensacola. The smile I would see radiating under that gold visor was truly spectacular. It emanated the pride, passion, and pure joy that he felt representing the Navy and Marine Corps, flying Blue Angel 6.

“Tonight, I hope you will join the team in saluting him as he flies that special route home to Pensacola again. He is flying in Fat Albert — call sign ‘Blue Angel 6,’ and escorted by the Lead Solo, in Blue Angel 5.”

As is the case with many military deaths, the arrival and dignified transfer ceremony at Dover was not publicized to the media.

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The Blue Angels — including Capt. Kuss — were in Ocean City, Md., last summer for the annual OC Air Show.

On the beach, Capt. Kuss mingled with the crowds and narrated one of the shows last year.

The OC Air Show is next weekend, June 18-19.

The Navy’s Tactical Demonstration team will fly the F-18 Super Hornet will be in show. The jet will sport the number 6 in honor of Capt. Kuss.

The Thunderbirds — the Air Force’s counterpart to the Blue Angels — are scheduled to perform in Ocean City.

The elite demonstration team has canceled appearances at some other recent shows following the crash of one of its F-16 Fighting Falcon jets on the same day as the Blue Angels crash.

As of Friday, the Air Force had not canceled the Ocean City appearance.

More information on the show is available at ocairshow.com.

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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