Fleet Readiness Center East helps keep Blue Angels’ ‘Fat Albert’ airworthy

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (WITN) – A United States Navy flying legend recently touched down for its scheduled annual round of inspections in ENC, an opportunity that those involved called a chance to work with “the best of the best.”

Fat Albert, the Navy’s Blue Angels’ C-130J Super Hercules support aircraft and its team was at Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point recently for scheduled inspections and maintenance.

FRCE’s Minor Depot Inspection (MDI) Team worked alongside the Blue Angels Fat Albert Maintenance Team to complete annual maintenance and inspections on the iconic plane that transports the Navy’s premier flight demonstration squadron’s support team and equipment to air shows and demonstrations around the world.

According to Staff Sgt. Patrick Angles, who serves as both the Fat Albert maintenance staff noncommissioned officer in charge and engine mechanic, working with FRCE’s MDI Team reduced the time spent on the aircraft’s maintenance and inspections by 50%.

“We have seen how working with them has made the process considerably faster,” said Angles. “It typically takes a bit longer as we are all ‘one of ones,’ meaning we only have one airframer, one engine mechanic, one flight equipment mechanic and so on. Having the extra hands has helped tremendously.”

The visit also provided FRCE employees with beneficial exposure, according to Mike Edwards, relief supervisor for the C-130 platform.

“We’ve learned a lot. They are very knowledgeable, the top of their class,” said Edwards. “We have a lot of younger employees who are still learning and, in this situation, they get to learn from the best of the best. That can only help us as a facility because if we are being trained, and trained the right way, then that can have a domino effect.”

According to Edwards, FRCE’s MDI Team regularly performs maintenance on C-130 aircraft, but this is their first time working on Fat Albert. As a transportation aircraft used for airshows and not designed for carrier operations, Fat Albert has a different capability set than typical C-130s, making this a unique experience for FRCE employees.

“There are just a few things Fat Albert does not have that a typical C-130 would, for tactical use,” said Edwards. “For example, Fat Albert does not have in-flight refueling capabilities. But as far as inspection processes, they are the same. We still check flight controls, brakes, landing gear and counter warfare measures.”

Earlier this year, the Navy named FRCE the future depot source of repair for Navy C-130 aircraft, making this experience even more beneficial. The depot could begin the new C-130 workload as soon as the end of the fiscal year 2026.

Fat Albert and the Blue Angels Team will return to Cherry Point for the MCAS Cherry Point Air Show in early May.