October 1969


Published in the October 1969 issue of Naval Aviation News
Author: F. Michael O'Brien

Down the runway they streak, dark blue noses drooping and tails riding high. Then suddenly the big blue jets leap from the concrete and red-orange streaks of fire blast them skyward. The show is on! These are the Navy's famed Blue Angels in their new F-4J, Mach 2.6 Phantom II's. Four of them climb in their basic diamond formation, as two others follow. Hey, look at the second solo Blue, he's going to . . . not on takeoff . . . but he is! Look at him go - straight up and over, a loop on takeoff . . . no - wait a minute, he's rolling out . . . it's an Immelman. Wow! (The Phantom has the thrust to do this on takeoff.) Lt. Steve Shoemaker rolled it out just right. Some plane, some pilot! What a beautiful sight.

Now the flight leader, Commander Bill Wheat, is arching skyward with his F-4J. The other three follow him in a giant follow-the-leader loop - a difficult Trail Loop - with the Number 4 man getting a real whipcrack as they swing around the giant circle in perfect formation.

(Those who did not know the Phantom and had not flown in the aircraft doubted the capability of the big jet to perform the maneuvers of the Blues. But those who knew the F-4 were not surprised at its success.)

Here they come again, fall from the "bomb burst" and streaking in four directions and . . . look out . . . Wahoom! Boom! Vahroom! They cross in tiers in front of the crowd, the roar away.

Look at those two coming head-on. Hey, they passed canopy to canopy! Whew. They're coming back - upside down. They can fly!

Then the diamond formation streaks across the runway, just off the ground. The leader is upside down in the Farvel maneuver. Makes you dizzy watching him. And look at the colored smoke. Great!

Here come the other two, like flying corkscrews spinning toward each other - aileron rolls at high speed. There they go. Now they have all disappeared.

No, look over there. The whole swarm. Count them. Six! They are racing toward the runway in front of the stands in a Delta formation. Great Scott! They're pulling right up into a Delta loop. They roll down from the top, still in the Delta, in a 10,000 foot drop, leveling off at the bottom - right in front of us - then roar off to the right, still in a tight Delta. The big blue Phantom's with the bright yellow trim are beautiful to see. The Blue Angels are better than ever.

Lt. John Allen makes a head-on run a Lt. Shoemaker and, as they pass each other, they are doing four-point rolls with perfect precision. The crowd goes wild.

Look at them now. They are coming in for a four-plane diamond formation landing. Lt. Richard I. Millson, flying the slot, lands first; then Lt. Ernie Christenson, on the left of the leader, and Capt. Vincent D. Donile, USMC, on the right are followed by Cdr. Wheat.

The two solo planes join them as they taxi to the ramp. The ground crewmen cease their anxious pacing. Several give a thumbs up. Above the whine of engines, a voice cries, "Four-O." Perfect!

 Blue Alumni Association Notes:
The photo was not in the original article.