I have always loved the Blue Angels. They are thrilling to watch and inspiring on so many levels. I’m sure the team had a lot to do with me wanting to become a pilot.
I love the Marines…who they are and what they represent to our country. I have a cousin and a nephew who served proudly…and as I write, there is a friend of my son in our home who will be joining the Corp when he graduates from High School next year.
I never knew Capt Jeff Kuss, but his loss has hit me hard.
I have watched and re-watched a particular video of the Blue Angel Number 6 crash. It’s the only video I’ve seen thus far that had the perspective to allow us to see most of the flight up to the accident. It was tough to watch. I had heard reports that Capt Jeff Kuss had entered a Split S maneuver prior to the crash. I didn’t remember seeing that in other Blue Angel solo flights, but this video showed it clearly.
When I was much younger, I flew aerobatics in a high-performance piston engine aircraft, a Pitts S2-B. The Split S maneuver is something we did in training. (And something I did a version of a lot later in my piloting to scare my buddies) It is a common flight transition to change direction or enter a different maneuver (if you happen to be doing a flight routine). A Spit S, in simple terms, can be thought of as the bottom half of a loop. It is a positive g transition that is a lot of fun (and relatively easy to do) for a then novice to aerobatics like me. We usually entered the Split S from straight and level flight, rolled the plane inverted then pulled back on the stick to start the move. In the aircraft I flew, it was rarely more than a 2-3 g tug on the stick into your gut. From there it was just keeping the wings level, controlling RPMs and airspeed then leveling out at your intended altitude.
(Note: In an aircraft, positive g’s feel like your bottom is being pressed into your seat. It’s sort of the same feeling you get under rapid acceleration in a car…except that you feel your back being pressed against the seat.)
As I watched the video, already knowing the outcome…I realized that there was a point in time in that particular Split S maneuver, when Capt Jeff Kuss knew he wasn’t going to complete it. Something had gone wrong. And now, all the skills he had used to thrill people, were being used to save them. It was a choice he made. It was an act of complete and total sacrifice for folks on the ground he didn’t even know…but in that moment, cared about more than his own life.
It was a sacrifice of the highest order.
The loss of Capt Jeff Kuss was a tragedy. The lesson of his sacrifice for others was legendary.
There was another sacrifice in history. A sacrifice that would change our eternity. A sacrifice that Jesus made once and for all to save men and women in this life…and bring them to life with him after death. It’s hard to not draw a parallel when you witness something as selfless and heroic as that of Capt Jeff Kuss. If you had asked Jeff if he would have been willing to die to save some folks on the ground that day…he might have had to think about it. Weigh all the options. He’d be widowing his wife, orphaning his kids…changing his families future forever. That might have been a hard choice not knowing what his next flight would bring. Now we know what he was made of. He is truly a hero.
Jesus knew from the beginning he was going to die. That’s is what he had come to earth for. He knew that his Father, God, was going to forsake him as the sin of the world was placed on his shoulders at Calvary. Jesus death was no accident. It was planned before time…before the foundations of the earth. God knew that we humans would need a Savior because of our sin. And Jesus knew that his death would pave the way to heaven for us.
John 15;13 – Greater love has no man than this…that he lay down his life for his friends