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MILITARY

Blue Angels leader steps down over low-level move

The commander of the Navy's famed Blue Angels flight demonstration team said Friday he is voluntarily leaving the team soon after some of its jets flew at a lower altitude than allowed at a Virginia air show last weekend.

Navy Cmdr. Dave Koss announced his departure four days after the team said it was going on an indefinite safety stand-down because of the error.

Four of the six F/A-18 Hornets flew below their specified altitude in a diamond formation at the Lynchburg, Va., show. All six aircraft landed safely about three-fourths of the way through the scheduled performance without damage to the planes or injury to the pilots. The exact altitude they violated has not been released.

The team cancelled performances surrounding Friday's graduation at the U.S. Naval Academy and a planned Memorial Day weekend performances at an air show in Millville, N.J.

"I performed a maneuver that had an unacceptably low minimum altitude," Koss said in a statement released by the Navy. "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."

Greg McWherter, a former Blue Angels' Commanding Officer will replace Koss for the season, the team said. Because of the change, the team has cancelled its performances at the Rockford Airfest in Illinois on June 4-5 and the Evansville Freedom Festival Airshow in Indiana on June 11-12.

Blue Angels pilot Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Davis died at a 2007 air show in South Carolina when he briefly lost control of his No. 6 jet and it went down.

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