May 27, 2011|by Bryant Jordan

Blue Angels close pass.

The commander of the Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team has been relieved of command at his own request after the team performed a flight maneuver at a low, unsafe altitude, according to the Navy.

Officials offered no details in a brief statement just released, but it is doubtless linked to the Blue Angels' May 22 performance at the Lynchburg Regional Air Show in Virginia. Jets flying a so-called Barrel Roll Break maneuver reportedly came in too low before climbing again.

"This maneuver, combined with other instances of not meeting the airborne standard that makes the Blue Angels the exceptional organization that it is, led to my decision to step down," Cmdr. Dave Koss, the team's commanding officer, said in today's statement.

The Navy did not indicate if any pilots would face disciplinary action over the maneuver.

Koss ordered a safety stand-down immediately after the Lynchburg show, forcing the cancellation of several shows, including one at the U.S. Naval Academy and at least two performances.

No one was injured as a result of the flying maneuver over Lynchburg. The Blue Angels will remain in Pensacola for additional training and air show demonstration practice.

Koss will be replaced for the rest of the season by Capt. Greg McWherter, the team's previous commanding officer.

In the statement released by the Navy, Koss expressed his "utmost respect for the Sailors and Marines of the Blue Angels."

"The reason this team is so successful, brings thrills to millions of fans across America, and represents the U.S. Navy so superbly is because of the absolute commitment to safety and perfection by every member of the team," he said.

The Blue Angels have experienced numerous accidents, some involving loss of life, over the previous decade.

In 2007 Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Davis died when his Hornet crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. Three years earlier another pilot suffered minor injuries after being forced to eject from his Hornet when it struck the water off Perdido Key in Florida.

In 1999 both pilots flying in a two-seat Hornet died when their plane crashed during a landing in Georgia.
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