A Texas A&M graduate has been selected to serve as a demonstration pilot in 2020 for the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s renowned 16-person traveling flight demonstration squadron.
In a phone interview with The Eagle, Marine Corps Maj. Frank Zastoupil, an F-35 pilot who graduated from Texas A&M in 2009, said that the Blue Angels, formed in 1946, represent Navy and Marine personnel as public faces. They perform aerobatic demonstrations for millions of spectators across the country each year, he said.
“The team is out there to showcase the prime professionalism of every sailor and Marine out there through the air shows, through community outreach, through flight demonstrations and to inspire the next generation to accomplish their own goals and dreams,” Zastoupil said.
Zastoupil is assigned to the “Warlords” of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 and is based in Beaufort, South Carolina, with his wife, Shannon, who graduated from Texas A&M in 2010, and their daughter, Harlow, who is nearly 2.
Zastoupil, a 2005 Kingwood High School graduate, effusively praised his time at Texas A&M. Extended family members attended A&M, he said, including two cousins who were at the university while he was a high school student choosing his college path. He majored in psychology and played lacrosse while a student.
Zastoupil did not join the Corps of Cadets, he said, but did officer candidate preparatory work following his junior year. He praised A&M’s military culture and the appreciation for military service baked into the university and its stakeholders.
“I loved the culture that A&M and Aggieland had,” he said. “A&M and the mentors I had there helped me every step of the way.”
Zastoupil said that he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in May 2009 and went to Basic School for several months in Quantico, Virginia, where newly appointed and commissioned Marine Corps officers are trained.
“They stuck me in a Russian language course, which I was interested in because I took Russian at A&M as well,” he said.
He began flight training at the start of 2011, first in Pensacola, Florida, and then in Corpus Christi. He then moved to jet training in Kingsville before moving to North Carolina in 2013. He learned to fly the Harrier jet before receiving F-35 training in March 2017.
Zastoupil will be the first F-35 pilot to serve as a member of the Blue Angels.
“The people I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by in my current squadron are people who only want to excel,” Zastoupil said. “They are team players who want to do the best thing for those around them. Everybody is there to make everyone around them better, and to serve our country in such a manner that they’re willing to deploy tomorrow if needed.”
“It’s those kinds of people — people who are willing to literally jump in a jet or get on a ship and sail out right away — who help make our country a little bit better,” Zastoupil said.
Blue Angels training will begin in November, according to a press release. Zastoupil will learn to fly an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, and his inaugural flight demonstration will be in March 2020, in California.
“In the last 10 years of my life, I’ve learned a lot about who I am,” Zastoupil said.
For the complete 2019 and 2020 Blue Angels flight schedule, go to www.blueangels.navy.mil/show/.