The Hornet, bureau number 161746, was manufactured by then McDonnell Douglas Corporation (now Boeing) near Lambert St. Louis International Airport in 1983. It was used by several operational Navy squadrons before being acquired by the famous Navy Blue Angels aerobatic team, and is now owned by the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. The cockpit bears the names of Lt. Frank Weisser and Lt. Dan McShane, both of whom flew this aircraft during the 2008 performance season. When mounted on a pedestal, it will remind the St. Louis community of its past and current role in aviation history.
St. Louis Science Center President and CEO, Douglas R. King, put the achievement in perspective. “Our Mission here at the Science Center is to ignite and sustain lifelong science and technology learning, and there couldn’t be any better example of how that works than what we’re doing today. What you are going to see here in a few minutes will ignite the imagination of a lot of people…It’s much more than an airplane, it’s an inspiration for people in our community and for the next generation of people who will build and fly these aircraft.” Being outside in such a prime viewing area where more than a million people a year will see it, King continued, will serve as catalyst for them to go inside and learn more about the actual airplane and aerospace careers. The St. Louis Science Center already has a display dedicated to McDonnell Douglas, early space exploration and of course astronomy.
Kent Schien, CEO of Innoventor (Engineering Consultants), described the process by which the aircraft was brought to St. Louis. As a result of discussion 110 days ago aboard an aircraft carrier between Schien and Lt. Cmdr. Garrett Kasper, former Blue Angel member and communications contact for St. Louis Navy Week, the seed for the acquisition of a Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet for St. Louis was planted. A Contact with Admiral Michael Bowman, Chairman of the National Naval Aviation Museum, set the process in motion for the aircraft loan to the St. Louis Science Center. Of course, the desire for an aircraft loan had been expressed for years, but now the dream was set to become a reality.
Over the next several months, the exhibit area for the aircraft will be finalized and the Hornet will be mounted on a pedestal for the community to see. And then, in the process, the allure of lifelong science and technology education at the St. Louis Science Center will soar along with the Blue Angel Hornet that has returned to its home.