Two pilots on a training flight aboard an F-18 plowed into a stand of Georgia pines, killing both men -- the first Blue Angels to die in a crash in nearly 15 years.
Cmdr. Jack Papp, a Navy spokesman in Pensacola, Fla., where the Blue Angels are based, confirmed the deaths. No names were released pending notification of relatives.
"The accident took place around 12:30 this afternoon. They were coming in to land, practicing arrival maneuvers when this happened," said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon in Washington. "The Navy does not yet have a clear picture of what happened."
Arrival maneuvers are not a particularly death-defying part of the Blue Angels routine, which at times has them flying within three feet of each other and at speeds of up to 700 mph.
The Blue Angels normally fly solo, but this was a practice session for a show they were scheduled to put on this weekend. And in practice, the two-seater version of the F-18 is frequently used to break in new members of the team.
The Blue Angels were scheduled to perform two shows this weekend during Moody's Community Appreciation Day. For the year, the stunt team had 68 air shows scheduled at 36 locations in the United States and Canada.
The stunt team has six FA-18 jets and is based at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
The last crash involving the Navy's high-precision flying team occurred in 1990, and the last fatality occurred on July 13, 1985, in Niagara Falls, N.Y., when Lt. Cmdr. Michael Gershon died following a crash caused when two planes collided in midair.
Thursday's fatalities brought to 23 the number of pilots killed in air shows or training since the group was formed in 1946.