Monday, December 11, 2023

Veteran Voices: York High Grad Flies Final Mission with US Navy Blue Angels

Chris Kapuschansky in his Blue Angel jet with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. (Chris Kapuschansky)

YORKTOWN — Chris Kapuschansky, York High School Class of 2007, literally took to the skies as a member of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels for the last two years. After recently flying his final mission, Kapuschansky reflected on his time with the Blues.

He had dreamt of playing Division I football at the United States Naval Academy for as long as he could remember. With a father in the Navy, Kapuschansky spent a good part of his early life in Newport, Rhode Island, where he happened to get an opportunity to see the Blue Angels perform. He was hooked.

“I grew up running around destroyers and frigates and cruisers. It was just what I did. My parents brought me to an air show and we saw the Blues and it blew my mind. I thought to myself ‘holy cow, what are these blue airplanes doing? This is absolutely incredible’, and that piqued my interest in aviation,” Kapuschansky said.

After graduating from York High School in 2007, Kapuschansky headed off to Valley Forge Military College for a year before being accepted into the United States Naval Academy. While he didn’t get that opportunity to play for the Navy Midshipmen football team and famed head coach Ken Niumatololo, there were other dreams he’d achieve.

Kapuschansky pilots the number two jet for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels (Chris Kapuschansky)

Kapuschansky attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida. after graduation. He earned his Wings of Gold in October 2014. He then joined the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana. After completing his training, he reported to VFA 103, the famed Jolly Rogers.

In September 2021, Kapuschansky joined the U.S. Navy Blue Angels; seeing his childhood dream come true.

“I’m very fortunate that all the chips fell in line. It’s not an easy job, but it’s really cool. A lot of people apply and somehow, I was selected and found my way to the team. This job is an absolute blast and to do what inspired me, it means a lot to me,” Kapuschansky said.

As a U.S. Navy Blue Angel, Kapuschansky flies the number two jet, the right wing. It was a goal he never thought would come to fruition.

“When I started flying F18’s, I thought ‘hey this is it. I’ve done everything I wanted to do,’ never thinking that the Blue Angels was a feasible thing. There was no way it was going to happen. It’s one of those things that you think probably won’t happen but why not give it a shot?

When Kapuschansky got the call to officially join the team, he was in shock.

Kapuschansky getting ready for takeoff. (Chris Kapuschansky)

“When they all said ‘welcome to the team’, I kind of froze for a second. I was trying to actually think ‘did they really say that?’ On the other end of the phone, all the guys kept asking me if I was there. I was taken aback for a second. My wife was downstairs and I just came down and said ‘I guess we have to start looking for a house in Pensacola’. Her overall excitement is what really made it all sink in,” Kapuschansky said.

The Blue Angels are an active recruiting tool for the U.S. Navy, traveling to air shows around the country to show the public the true power of naval aviation. Each Angel is only allowed two years on the team before being sent back to the fleet.

“Our motto has always been ‘glad to be here.’ Whenever we have a brief, we always start off with being fired up and ready to go. We’re going to attack it and do the best we possibly can, strive for that perfection, but at the end of the day, no matter how the show went, no matter the highs or lows that anyone experiences, everyone on this team is glad to be here. There is no other job in the world like being a Blue Angel,” Kapuschansky said.

Kapuschansky earned his Call sign — ‘Cheese’ — after meeting VFA-103 on board the USS Abraham Lincoln.

“There were a handful of people on the ship. Nobody had any idea how to say my last name. I was just showing up happy and glad to be there. Nobody knew how to say my last name, except for maybe two of my buddies from flight school. This guy just kept saying ‘cup of, kapa, cupa, what is it?’ and eventually he said ‘do I say it, cup of cheese?’ and it just stuck. From the day I showed up, it was always cup of cheese showed up, cheesy’s here, and that was it from day one. I didn’t care because I love cheese, and I was always trying to be upbeat and outgoing, so it really just fit,” Kapuschansky said.

Kapuschansky signing autographs at an air show. (Chris Kapuschansky)

On Nov. 4, Kapuschansky flew in his final air show, taking to the skies one last time over Pensacola. After an emotional flight, Kapuschansky is grateful for his two years as a Blue Angel.

“I’ve never been apart of a more amazing team ever. We have 147 people on this team, 16 are officers, 7 are F-18 pilots, 3 of them are C-130 pilots, and the rest are support officers. Every single person, they don’t just want to be here, they want to do everything perfect. You take this team right here and you copy and paste and turn this into an airwing, it is going to be the most incredible thing you’d ever see. We love one another and it truly is a family.”

Now that his two years are finished, Kapuschansky will return to the fleet and be stationed at NAS Oceana with the Black Lions (VFA-213).

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