NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — A former Blue Angels pilot from the East remembers Jeff Kuss as a brother and very talented pilot.
Ben Hancock flew for the Blue Angels from 1994 to 1995, performing across the country with the team. He says the crash Thursday in Tennessee is a blow for the tight-knit team and the country as a whole. Hancock recalls flying into the same area in Smyrna where Kuss crashed.
“Same exact airport, same area,” said Former Blue Angel Pilot Ben Hancock. “Of course, it’s been a long time now but it kind of hit home for me because I knew I’d flown there.”
He says it’s an honor to fly for the Naval flight demonstration squadron and he knows Captain Kuss took his job seriously while knowing the risks associated with the shows.
“The number one factor is safety, but I think everyone on the team know there is an inherent risk,” explained Hancock, who added that he experienced loss like this during times of war. His thoughts go out to the young family Kuss leaves behind. “It’s happened to me before in combat. I lost a wingman from Cherry Point on the last day of the Gulf War. When I was circling over his burning jet over Iraq, my first thoughts myself were of his wife and his young baby, a girl. So my first thoughts too were of Jeff Kuss’ wife and he’s got a 4-year-old boy and one-year-old girl. Beautiful family. You really worry about them and how they’re doing.”
Although details about the crash have not been released, Hancock says it’s likely Kuss was ensuring the safety of the community by taking down the plane. Making the ultimate sacrifice for others, like many men and women that protect and serve.
“He did the best he could to steer it toward the wooded area or an open field where it wouldn’t impact homes or buildings,” said Hancock.
The Blue Angels will not perform this weekend at the scheduled show due to the crash. Hancock says the team will likely have some time to mourn Kuss before performing again.