PAF Blue Diamonds

History

PAF Blue Diamonds Logo Badge

The first aerobatic display team in the Philippine Air Force was formed in 1953 and flew four P-51 Mustang fighters from the Fernando Air Base in Lipa city. In November, they performed its first public display at Philippine Aviation Week led by Lt Jose FL Gonzalez. The following year, the team received the “Blue Diamond” name and grew to five aircraft. When the Mustangs were retired from Air Force in 1955, the “Blue Diamond” team temporarily stopped demonstrations.

The team was re-established in 1958 from the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron, this time flying with eight F-86 Sabre aircraft based at Basa. Each of the planes was equipped with a smoke generator.

In 1959, during practice flight, the left armament panel tore off its rivets on the leader's plane, causing pilot, LT Gonzales, to veer out of position and collide with the slot aircraft. Both aircraft suffered major wing damage, but were able to safely land at Basa.

In 1960, the “Blue Diamond” team gained a new leader, Capt Angel Mapua, who previously flew on right wing. Under his leadership, the team grew to 16 aircraft. The team was also re-named to the “Blue Diamonds”.

In 1961, Capt Marcelo Barbero Jr became the leader of the team. The team reduced to 12 aircraft and started using colored smoke instead of the more standard white smoke.

In 1962, the team was reformed into nine-ship team headed by Capt Isidro Agunod. During the “November Aviation Week” celebration, the “Blue Diamonds” had performed for just about 10 minutes, when one of the pilots suffered engine trouble. He separated from the formation and proceeded to Manila Bay. He tried ditching the aircraft but perished in the incident. This tragedy interrupted any further team displays for a year. In addition, the Philippine Air Force decided to move the aviation week celebrations from November to March in order to avoid the seasonal inclement weather conditions and thereby hopefully safeguard future shows.

In March 1964, the “Blue Diamonds” performed again at Aviation Week, again headed by Capt Angel Mapua. In 1966, the team's formation decreased to six aircraft. This was the last year that the “Blue Diamonds” would fly Sabres.

On May 2, 1968, the team performed with new F-5A Freedom Fighter aircraft in a six-ship formation. In 1971, the team was further reduced to five aircraft.

In 1973, the “Blue Diamonds” performed together with two other Philippine Air Force aerobatic teams, the “Red Aces” and the “Golden Sabres”, that had been created the year before. In 1974, the team increased back to six aircraft but in 1977 the team decreased to just four because of a fuel crisis. Then, the following year, the team was disbanded altogether.

In 1986, the Blue Diamonds were reactivated again, this time flying with six F-5As.

Thank you to T.F.J. Leversedge at K.A.R. Inc for his editorial assistance with this website!