The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!
Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Blue Angels Pilot Relives Tour Flying "Fat Albert" at St. Louis Missouri Pilots Association Meeting
By Carmelo Turdo
The Midwest Aviation community eagerly awaits the arrival of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron for the Spirit of St. Louis Air Show in May. As a prelude to the airshow, the St. Louis Chapter of the Missouri Pilots Association hosted a program Wednesday evening dedicated to the history of the Blue Angels, produced by aviation historian Joe Gurney, with special guest Rob Wunderlich, U.S. Marine pilot of the "Fat Albert" Hercules support aircraft during the 1997-98 seasons. Gurney presented the history of the Blue Angels as they progressed from the Grumman F-6F Hellcat in 1946 to the current McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornet, while Wunderlich (now a USAF Lt. Colonel flying KC-135 tankers) related his experiences flying the KC-130 with an all-U.S. Marine Corps crew. It was no surprise that the main topic of the Q&A session was the JATO takeoff performance of the KC-130 using eight solid-fuel rockets (manufactured in the 1950s). The performance, now discontinued due to cost and unavailability of the rockets, was especially impressive when seen at night.
Joe Gurney provided a portion of his memorabilia collection for viewing:
Rob Wunderlich joined the presentation, bringing his flight suit and a JATO rocket canister:
Bob Crandell (right), St. Louis Chapter officer, presents a certificate of appreciation to Joe Gurney (left) and Rob Wunderlich