“This photo indeed has a surrealistic quality. I believe it is due to the focal length of the camera used. There is no doubt that this pass was an aggressive low level maneuver,” Dale “Snort” Snodgrass, former F-14 Tomcat driver
Taken in 1988 from the flight deck of USS America (CV-66) and the photo in this post shows F-14 Tomcat driver Capt Dale “Snort” Snodgrass performing his (in)famous super low banana pass.
And, as told by Sierra Hotel Aeronautics, no, Snort was not grounded.
He wrote in 1998: “I am amazed that after nine years this photo is being scrutinized with such fervor. The photo is in fact real. It was taken during a dependent’s day airshow aboard the USS America in the summer of 1988. I was Executive Officer of VF-33, the Captain of the America was JJ Coonan. It was of my opening pass in the F-14 demo. This photo indeed has a surrealistic quality. I believe it is due to the focal length of the camera used. There is no doubt that this pass was an aggressive low level maneuver, however, it was briefed to the Airwing Commander who happened to be Captain JL Johnson. Currently he is the Chief of Naval Operations. In fact the officer standing on the flight [deck] with his hands behind his back adjacent the LSO platform is CNO.”
Snort is not your typical ex-naval aviator. He is closer to a modern-day Chuck Yeager-like prototypical fighter pilot. According Lou Drendel’s book Tomcat: The Grumman F-14, he is the high-time F-14 Tomcat pilot (with over 4,800 hours in the F-14), a former Commander of Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, (FITWINGLANT) the home of all Navy F-14 squadrons when they were not at sea. While still commander of FITWINGLANT, he devised and flew a formation aerobatic routine with a World War II-vintage Grumman F7F Tigercat, piloted by John Ellis. Given the widely varied performance envelopes of the two Grumman fighters, it was one of the most impressive displays of aeronautical skills imaginable. One of the least heralded, but perhaps the most important accomplishment of his career, was his oversight of the conversion of the Tomcat from a fleet defense interceptor to a deadly smart bomber.
Captain Snodgrass is an internationally recognized Air Show Pilot. Having flown F-14 demos at airshows for 14 years, he has additionally qualified in the F-86 Sabre, P-51 Mustang, F4U Corsair, T-6/SNJ Texan, MiG-17/21, A-4 Skyhawk and F-5 Tiger.
Snort currently flies as Lead Solo on the Black Diamond Jet Team supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He also serves as Draken International’s Chief Pilot, Director of Deployed Operations and Congressional Liaison.
However that shot off of the America is very widely used and most people seem to initially think it is either an edited photo, or a risky maneuver.
Instead as Snort said to John Sponauer, “It’s not risky at all with practice… it was my opening pass to a Tomcat tactical demonstration at sea. I started from the starboard rear quarter of the ship, at or slightly below flight deck level. Airspeed was at about 250 knots with the wings swept forward. I selected afterburner at about 1/2 mile behind and the aircraft accelerated to about 325-330 knots. As I approached the ship, I rolled into an 85 degree angle of bank and did a 2-3 g turn, finishing about 10- 20 degrees off of the ship’s axis. It was a very dramatic and, in my opinion, a very cool way to start a carrier demo. The photo was taken by an Aviation Boson’s Mate who worked the flight deck on the USS America.”
Here’s the video of Snort’s legendary super low Banana pass (you can find a Slightly better version of the video here).
Photo credit: Sean E. Dunn / U.S. Navy
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com