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A new documentary of the Blue Angels features a NAS Oceana pilot

Lt. Cmdr. Chris Kapuschansky at Naval Air Station Oceana.
Steve Walsh
Photo by Steve Walsh
Lt. Cmdr. Chris Kapuschansky at Naval Air Station Oceana.

Lt. Cmdr. Chris Kapuschansky first saw the Blue Angels at an air show when he was a teenager. The experience inspired him to become a Naval aviator.

After he became a fighter pilot, he applied three times before he was selected to join the elite demonstration squadron.

“It's a very humbling experience right out the gate,” he said. “Extremely humbling, and very rewarding. But man, it is a fire hose of information - A fire hose of stuff that you've never done before.”

“The Blue Angels” documents the Blue Angels entire 2022 season from new pilots arriving at Naval Air Station Pensacola to their winter training center at El Centro, California on through their grueling schedule of air shows.

The documentary crew mounted IMAX cameras on the planes and used a helicopter to film the squadron as they practiced. The Navy’s elite demonstration team has been the subject of several documentaries over their 75- year history.

“I think this one is very different from the ones in the past,” Kapuschansky said. “It's not only just looking from the ground up, it's you're looking from the sky down. You're looking inside the cockpit. You're looking from the cockpit looking forward.”

Kapuschansky has just left a two- year tour with the Blue Angels. He grew up in Yorktown and he has just been stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana, which is home to all of the Navy’s east coast strike fighter units.

Fighter jets roared overhead as he explained that pilots flying with the Blue Angels turn off the smoke during a performance, whenever they are even slightly out of position.

“When you see all those little puffs of smoke, that's why it happens,” he said. “We're calling ourselves out. It's that extreme ownership that we have to essentially showcase to our friends that I know I'm messed up, which is again, humbling.”

Flying an F-18 Super Hornet is always physically demanding. The Blue Angels attach a spring to the stick to give it the equivalent of an extra 45 pounds. The weight gives the planes more precise handling, which helps pilots fly within 18 inches of each other.

“Imagine holding a kettlebell or a dumbbell right and not in a full curl position but almost like level with the ground and holding for about 45 minutes,” he said. “That's what it's like every single flight. It’s incredibly physically demanding.”

“The Blue Angels” just finished a brief run in theaters and is now available on Prime Video.

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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