August 1967


Published in the August 1967 issue of Naval Aviation News
By Al Palmer, JOC USN

Italy . . . Tunisia . . . Turkey . . . France . . . then Florida - it's all in a month's travel for the U.S. Navy's globe-trotting Blue Angels of the Naval Air Training Command


The fame precision flight team covered the 20,000-mile jaunt in 26 days during May and June to demonstrate the precision flying skill required of Naval Aviators. It was the second European tour for the Blue Angels during their 21 years of existence. They made their first overseas tour in 1965.

Flying Grumman-built F-11A Tigers, painted in dark blue and trimmed in gold, the Blue Angels performed in four countries - six show in all - during the present tour. The F-11A in the sixth Grumman-build aircraft the Blues have flown since they were organized in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1946.

An estimated half a million people watched the Navy and Marine Corps precision fliers go through their aerial maneuvers, which have been hailed as the most intricate of any ever performed.

 The largest turn-out , as expected, was at the 27th Paris International Aeronautical and Space Salon at Le Bourget Airport where more than 150,000 people looked on.

 In this performance, however, the Blue Angels were forced to cut their normal 30-minute show to 13 minutes because on the great number of performances. The Blue Angels were further hindered when one of the aircraft developed engine trouble on the runway and never made it into the air.

The tour, which encompassed Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, was a first for some of the pilots and the maintenance crew.

Three performances were staged in Italy at Gaeta Bay, Naples and Aviano. Gaeta, a town which is now the home port of the U.S. Sixth Fleet flagship, USS Little Rock, was the site on the opening show on May 19. For many of the Italians, it was the first time they had ever seen an air show.

For the second show on May 20, thousands of people circled the Bay of Naples and other thousands watched the Blues from their villas high above the Mediterranean.

At Aviano, people came from small towns as far as 150 miles away to watch the Blue Angels. This sprawling air base is located at the foot of the Alps, which served as a magnificent background for the team's third show.

In Tunisia, the Blue Angels performed for their most enthusiastic crowd. Although the attendance fell far below that anticipated for Tunis, a city of 700,000 people, the populace was most receptive after the team performed. Some came by camel, others by horseback to see the team in action. Traditionally dressed Arab women, with children clinging to their dresses, lined the field. At the beginning, very few even spoke, but just looked on in awe as the Blue Angels manned their aircraft.

But when the pilots walked from their aircraft after the demonstration, autograph-seekers swarmed about them. "they were by far the most enthusiastic spectators." Said LCdr. Bill Wheat, officer-in-charge, of the Blues. Wheat, who joined the Blue Angels in December 1966, leads the team in his No. 1 Tiger.

 "The tour was very successful," Said LCdr Wheat. "Our relationship with foreign officials was outstanding. Their warm receptions made the tour most rewarding."

 Receptions were held in Naples and Tunis for all members of the team. At the reception in Tunis, at the 300-year-old Palace of the Rose, the team was saluted by Tunisia's colorful Berber guards. Host for the occasion was the Minister of Defense for Tunisia, Mr. Ahmed Mestiri.


Members of the team in addition to LCdr. Wheat are Captain Fred Craig, USMC who has been a Blue Angel since December 1964; Lt. Jonh Allen, who flew 129 combat missions in Vietnam then joined the team in December 1966; Lt. Red Hubbard, a member since November 1964; Lt. Norman Gandia, who has been with the team since December 1965; and Lt. Hal Loney, a combat veteran of Vietnam with 130 combat missions in the F-8 Crusader, who joined the team in February 1967. Other team members are: Lt. Fred Wilson, naval flight officer, Lt. Vince Donile, assistant maintenance officer, and Lt. Dave Rottgering, PAO for the Blue Angels.

This TF-9 Cougar appears to be flying without a pilot as four F-11A Tigers of the Blue Angels sweep overhead in echelon formation during a performance at Incirlik, Turkey. Actually the Cougar remains on the ground while its pilot, Lt. Dave Rottgering, narrates the show.

Two Blue Angels are framed by flags of the United States and Italy as they streak upside down in opposite directions over the Bay of Naples during their performance on 20th of May.

To insure safe precision flight, the Blue Angels have their own maintenance men with them. Here ADJ3 Wayne Crane and AT3 Gerald Gates make repairs on one of the F-11A Tiger jets.

Tunisian autograph seekers swarm around LCdr. Wheat after the Blue Angelsí air show.

Lt. Loney, pilot of No. 6, checks cockpit as ADJ3 Richard Ford checks landing gear.

At Gaeta, the Blue Angels pass over USS Little Rock, flagship of Commander, 6th Fleet.

Air Force personnel gathered in force when the Blue Angels made a visit and put on an air show at Incirlik, Turkey, flying their repertoire with the precision for which they are famed.

Youngster (left) finds Blue Angelsí performance a little nervy as he bites his nails.

Berber Guards at 300-year-old Palace of the Rose in Tunis salute Blue Angels as they arrive for reception given by Minister of Defense.

General Habib Tabib, inspector general for Tunisian Army, shows plaque LCdr. Wheat (right) gave him. U.S. Ambassador, the Honorable Francis Russell looks on (left).

Before Paris performance, Blue Angels posed for a photo at Arc se Triomphe. From left: Lt. Fred Wilson, Lt. Vince Donile, Lt. Hal Loney, Capt. (USMC) Fred Craig, LCdr. Bill Wheat (OinC), Lt. John Allen, Lt. Red Hubbard, Lt. Norm Gandia, and Lt. Dave Rottgering (PAO).