U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Holm The Blue Angels’ C-130T Hercules transport, affectionately known as “Fat Albert,” needs replacing. And the new support plane for the Navy’s demonstration flight team could come from an unlikely source: the Royal Air Force. The Navy grounded its fleet of C-130Ts in the wake of a deadly 2017 accident that killed 16, and last week the service announced its intent to purchase a newer, used C-130J from the United Kingdom.
For decades, the Blue Angels have travelled from air show to air show with Fat Albert in tow. Named after the 1980s Saturday morning cartoon character, Fat Albert is a Marine Corps C-130T Hercules painted Navy blue whose mission is to ferry spare parts, aircraft maintainers, and other necessities when the team is on the road. It can carry up to forty team members at a time. The lumbering cargo aircraft typically flies with a crew of seven Marines: three pilots, two crew masters, and two flight engineers.
Fat Albert is also part of the air show, opening the Blue Angels’ act by flying over crowds and doing its own fancy maneuvers. For a time, the aircraft used JATO (jet-assisted take-off) rockets to boost itself into the air. The sight of the transport plane riding a ring of flames was a crowd pleaser. The Blue Angels added a C-130 Hercules to the team in 1970. In 2017, the U.S. Marine Corps grounded its fleet of C-130Ts after a tragic accident over Mississippi that killed 16 personnel. Despite the grounding, the show must go on, and the Blue Angels need a new Fat Albert.
As it turns out, the RAF has several C-130Js sitting in storage. The planes were mothballed when longer versions of the aircraft came into service. On March 23, the Navy announced its intent to buy one of them to serve as the new Fat Albert.