1965 NAS Patuxent River Airshow

By John D. Burlage, JO1

Published in the October 1965 issue of Naval Aviation News


If ever there was a single work that adequately describes the Navy's Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels, that's it.

Hours of practice have molded six sea service pilots into an incomparable team whose precision flying has thrilled millions of spectators throughout the nation - and recently, overseas. They are the latest in a list of crack Naval and Marine Aviators who, because of their exceptional personal and technical capabilities, have been selected for the Blue Angels during the team's 19 years of existence.

Plying their flying are in Grumman-built F-11A Tigers polished until they glisten, the Blue Angels demonstrate aerial maneuvers guaranteed to astound onlookers.

Two of those onlookers during a recent air show at NAS Patuxent River, Md., were LCdr. Scott K. (Scotty) Ross and Thomas R. Black, AMCS. Between them, they've watched the Blues hundreds of times, but they still observed the 25-minute performance far more critically than the thousands of civilians who lined the barrier 100 yards from the runway.

Their interest is understandable. They and the 40 enlisted Navy men who serve under them are charged with maintaining the Tigers that passed over in the famed wingtip-to-canopy diamond formation.

They head the crew that keeps the Blue Angels airborne.

LCdr. Ross has been the team's maintenance officer since October 1962. Like LCdr. Robert Cowles' public information officer billet, it's a primary duty that does not include performing.

A 42 year-old, former enlisted pilot, LCdr. Ross joined the Navy in February 1941, completed aviation machinist's mate school at NAS Pensacola, and made chief during WW II. He was designated a pilot in 1947, commissioned an Ensign in 1955. He and his wife have two children; the family lives in Pensacola.

Anyone who talks with LCdr. Ross about his job comes away from the conversation with two distinct impressions:

    1. The maintenance officer believes the Blue Angels' enlisted maintenance crew is the finest that can be found anywhere.
    2. Being a member of that crew is far different from shat a person might think.


"I've got the kind of crew a maintenance officer dreams of working with," he said. "Nobody goes AWOL. We get comments from stations we visit that military courtesy picks up after personnel have watched the crew's example. The men try constantly - literally - to keep all six planes up; they're extremely proud of the fact that we have no spare aircraft. In 82 shows we did in 1963, for instance, we finished a performance with less than six aircraft three times."

"Of course," he admitted "there are certain points that help assure the Blues will get the best kind of man for the maintenance crew".

Some of them include:

  • Joining the team is a voluntary proposition, and nobody beats the bushes for volunteers.
  • One of the criteria for membership is a spotless service record.
  • New men undergo a period of probation, usually including at lese one road trip, before they receive final acceptance into the unit.
  • There are no "second offenders" among the maintenance men; the nature of the Blue Angels assignment causes the powers-that-be to take a very dim view of misbehavior, and the individual who steps too far out of line can usually count on a transfer.
  • The job is anything but a bed of roses.

ADJ3 Wayne Crane Checks Cockpit

ADJ2 Ron Beeler & ADJ2 Jack Ryder Change Valve.

PR1 Charlie Wilkerson & AMSCM Thomas Black

Chief Black Positions For Takeoff.

Crewman With Chock.

AE3 Ed Schmotzer Polishes A Wing.

Good View of Blue Angels

LT McDonough OKs Plane

Pilots Start Walkdown

Enlisted Starting F11

Patuxent River 1965 Road Crew