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A Look Inside: U.S. Navy Blue Angels Lt. Griffin Stangel

Madison, Wisconsin native pilot of U.S. Navy Blue Angels #7 jet
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 8:08 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - A total of 17 officers voluntarily serve with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The Blue Angels base their selection of officers on their professional ability, military bearing and communication skills. U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilot number-7, Lieutenant Griffin Stangel, an officer from southern Wisconsin will be performing in front of family and friends here in Eau Claire this weekend.

“Definitely feel like I’m living the dream. It’s a lot of hard work but at the end of the day when you take a step back and realize that you have the best job in the world.”

Meet Madison native Lt. Griffin Stangel. Griffin has been flying in the Navy for the past decade, joining the Blue Angels in September of last year.

“Ever since I was young I was very fascinated with aviation, I didn’t exactly know that route I wanted to take. Then through boy scouts and some high school programs I was able to start flying with the young eagles and eventually went to college to become a pilot and that’s how I got my start,” says Lt. Stangel.

During his eight-year Navy commitment, Stangel trained to fly the F-18 and after going on deployments, Griffin says he was “lucky enough” to be selected to be an instructor pilot. He’s spent thousands of hours training other pilots the maneuvers used in air shows across the country. Lt. Stangel says pilots train six days a week, three times a day to fine tune the precision it takes to approach perfection.

“Repeating the same maneuvers over and over and over again, try to get marginally better each time to get to the point where we are flying 18 inches apart and it takes awhile to get there. So with that we go to winter training in central California... And it takes that level of repetition to put on a safe and effective demo to really wow the crowd with how close they’re flying and how low we’re flying,” says Griffin.

The F-18 Super Hornet is the bread and butter of the U.S. Navy carrier fleet.

“The heart and soul of the Navy Aviation platform. So they’re out there on carriers, getting ready to take off and land, could be middle of the night, pitching deck, but this jet is capable of multiple missions, multi-role missions and with that we’re able to go out there and do what we need to do.”

Bringing your A-game, one hundred percent effort every day is what it takes to be part of their team.

“It’s no small effort to make sure your body is rested, hydrated, you need to be physically in shape to fly the way that we do. And it takes a ton of preparation, mentally and physically to go out there and fly the flight demonstration. And trust is a big thing because we are flying 18 inches apart so you have to have 100-percent trust in the other pilots flying with you and the ground team doing all the work that generally is done behind the scenes, can’t forget about all those people putting in all those hours to make sure the jets are ready to go.”

Larger than the legacy jets the Blue Angels flew two years ago, Stangel says the F-18 Super Hornet speed is unmatched.

“Fastest I’ve gone is just over the speed of sound but that was with proper approval, over the water away from anyone that could have been affected by the sonic boom but generally you’ll see air speeds approaching the speed of sound but not breaking the speed of sound during the air show this weekend,” says Stangel.

And while Griffin and the rest of his U.S. Navy Blue Angels team thrill crowds in 32 different cities this year, Lieutenant Stangel never loses sight of the more than 800,000 men and women serving the U.S. military around the world.

“I have to remind myself every day that there are people on the other side of the world doing the job I was doing two years ago. That’s why Admiral Chester Nimitz in 1946 wanted to create this team, that even though the fighting forces are out of sight we don’t want them to be forgotten.”

Officers like Lieutenant Stangel typically serve two years with the Blue Angels team before returning to the fleet after their tours of duty. Griffin says he hopes to continue to instruct the next generation of pilots as long as the U.S. Navy wants him in that role.

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