Blue Angels announce new pilots, officers for 2021 air show season

Jake Newby Pensacola News JournalPublished 7:00 AM EDT Aug 24, 2020The Blue Angels on Monday announced their o

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The Blue Angels on Monday announced their official officer and pilot lineup for the 2021 air show season. 

With the exception of a handful of new names, next year's team looks very similar to the 2020 team that had its entire 2020 air show season wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Blues made "slight changes to the conventional officer rotation," as a result of the lost season, said Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, the commanding officer and flight leader of the team. 

Most, but not all, pilots and officers originally announced for the 2020 and 2021 seasons in July 2019 will be retained. 

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"Not being able to fly across the country and execute our mission definitely affects some of our best practices, if you will, and some of the training when it comes to the refinement from the demos," Kesselring said Friday. "And because of that, we're going to retain a little more experience going into the 2021 season, just to make sure that we have a good pass-down within the team, and we retain that high level of excellence we've come to enjoy."

Two new pilots, a new assistant maintenance officer, a new events coordinator and a new flight surgeon will join the team ahead of 2021. Four of the five were announced by the Blue Angels in July, and the newest member, F/A-18 demonstration pilot and Navy Cmdr. Benjamin Walborn, was added to the squad recently to take the fifth spot in the Blue Angels' flight pattern. 

2021 pilot and officer selections

Commanding officer and flight leader:

Navy Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, of Fargo, North Dakota

F/A-18 demonstration pilots:

  • Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Haley, of Canadian, Texas
  • Marine Maj. Frank Zastoupil, of Kingwood, Texas
  • Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jim Cox, of Chesapeake, Virginia
  • Navy Cmdr. Benjamin Walborn, of Reading, Pennsylvania
  • Navy Lt. Cary Rickoff, of Atlanta, Georgia
  • Navy Lt. Julius Bratton, of Woodlawn, Tennessee

Events coordinator:

Navy Lt. Katlin Forster, of Scottsdale, Arizona

Executive officer:

Navy Cmdr. Todd Royles, of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania

C-130 demonstration pilots:

  • Marine Corps Capt. Rick Rose, of Napa, California 
  • Marine Corps Capt. William Huckeba, of Hoover, Alabama
  • Marine Corps Capt. Jackson Streiff, of Omaha, Nebraska

Assistant maintenance officer:

Lt. Brian Abe, of Richardson, Texas

Assistant maintenance officer:

Navy Lt. Henry Cedeno, of Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico

Flight surgeon:

Navy Lt. Monica Borza, of Virginia Beach, Virginia

Supply officer:

Navy Lt. Kristin Toland, of Sedalia, Missouri

Public affairs officer:

Navy Lt.j.g. Chelsea Dietlin, of Rochester Hills, Michigan

The 2021 air show season, the 75th in Blue Angels history, is slated to begin April 10 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. 

Jake Newby can be reached at or 850-435-8538.
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