In a hangar at Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE), Fat Albert Maintenance Team Staff Noncommissioned Officer in Charge Staff Sgt. Patrick Angles, left, discusses the work scheduled for the C-130J known as Fat Albert with FRCE sheet metal mechanic Hunter Littrell, center, and mechanic’s helper Luke Baker. The FRCE Minor Depot Inspection Team assisted the Fat Albert Maintenance Team with performing annual maintenance and inspections, resulting in a faster turnaround time for the Fat Albert team and beneficial exposure for FRCE employees.

FRCE helps Blue Angels ensure Fat Albert is ready for the show

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) recently welcomed aviation icon Fat Albert and its team for scheduled inspections and maintenance, which gave FRCE a unique opportunity to learn from the “best of the best.”

FRCE’s Minor Depot Inspection (MDI) Team worked alongside the Blue Angels Fat Albert Maintenance Team to complete annual maintenance and inspections on Fat Albert, the Blue Angels’ C-130J Super Hercules support aircraft.

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 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.”

Not only did working alongside the Blue Angels team decrease the turnaround time for the aircraft’s inspections, but it 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.”

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.”

Affectionally known as “Bert” by many of the aircraft’s crewmembers, Fat Albert plays an important role in the Blue Angels’ mission. Angles said Bert is more than just an aircraft with a unique paint job, so ensuring the aircraft is well-maintained and properly prepared for each trip is important.

“Bert is our main source of transportation and is responsible for getting us everywhere we need to go,” said Angles. “Every weekend, we will pack up 48 Blue Angels and 40,000 pounds of gear and we go from show site to show site; we make sure everything gets where it needs to go.”

Blue Angels Fat Albert Maintenance Controller Sgt. Payton Lopez said he hopes the Blue Angels get to work alongside FRCE’s MDI Team again next year.

“As successful as we have been while here for inspections, we hope to continue working alongside the MDI Team at FRC East,” said Lopez. “We cannot thank them enough for letting us work alongside of them and making it easy for us, but also being there if we need anything. I can’t stress that enough.”

Lopez said having FRCE’s help with the annual inspections helps the Blue Angels increase mission accomplishment and readiness.

“Anything that makes the C-130 fly, we are checking during this inspection,” said Lopez. “We do this to ensure Bert is good for the rest of the air show season that starts in March.”

As a part of the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels’ mission is to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to the country through flight demonstrations and community outreach, according to the Blue Angels’ website.

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.

FRCE is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

The Blue Angels Fat Albert Maintenance Team prepare the C-130J support aircraft known as Fat Albert for departure from Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE). The depot welcomed Fat Albert and the Blue Angels for annual maintenance. As Fat Albert has a different capability set than typical C130s, the opportunity offered a unique learning experience for FRCE employees.

Members of Fleet Readiness Center East’s (FRCE) C-130 Minor Depot Inspection Team stand with the Blue Angels Maintenance Team members in front of Fat Albert, the Blue Angels’ C-130J support aircraft. Fat Albert recently visited FRCE for routine maintenance to ensure mission readiness. The Blue Angels use Fat Albert for transportation to their many airshows throughout the year, and it is the only aircraft of its kind.

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