Imagine the Tomcat positioned at the end of the runway, nose dipped down like it is ready to prowl on some unsuspecting airshow observer. As Snort begins the takeoff roll, he lights the afterburners and rumbles past show center at 150 knots. With the nose gear still on the ground, Snort yanks the jet up and right, into a dirty wing over, and then inverted, the Tomcats afterburners spewing decibels towards the crowd. Women and children cover their ears. Grown men blush. Naval Aviators stick their chest out. Everyone knows they are about to witness something special.
A thousand years from now, we will still talk about Snort and his legendary Tomcat performances.
As a member of the final Tomcat Demo team back in 2004, we would meet Snort in various airshows across the country. As the new guys, it was a little intimidating to be around this old salty Tomcat naval aviator. But Snort was always welcoming to us and his best advice after the airshow brief was always to “have fun.” In my mind, he wanted to trade spots with us, but instead, made up the difference in other ways.
At one airshow, I specifically remember sitting at the hold short watching Snort perform ahead of us in his F-86 Sabre. As he passed by us, the space between the ground and his wingtip could be measured in inches, not feet. I told my demo pilot, the balding Rocco Tangredi, that Snort could give him a haircut if we could just figure out how to attach clippers to the end of the F-86’s wing!