Snort's Opening Pass

NO, this image has not been photoshopped! 
and NO, the pilot was not grounded

The aircraft carrier is USS America and the photo was taken in 1988, when construction of John C. Stennis had not yet begun. The pilot was CDR Dale O. Snodgrass, and no, no matter how many times you have seen it on the internet, he was not grounded.
Retired Captain Snodgrass 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."
Photos above taken by Sean E. Dunn, USN
The photos below were submitted to Sierra Hotel Aeronautics via Scott Ó Cruimín Carmean USN Ret 

Dale started out as a young flight school graduate, becoming the youngest Nugget to carrier Qual for both Day and Night. Snort became nothing short of legendary as an F-14 pilot with over 4,800 hours of F-14 time, making him the aviator with more hours in a Tomcat than anyone else in history, including over 1,200 carrier landings. Snodgrass was also a former Top Gun instructor, Fighter Pilot of the Year in 1985, and in 1986, Snort was recognized by Grumman as "TopCat of the Year"

After 26 years of proud service, Dale retired form the US Navy, and jumped into the airshow industry that he had gown to love during his time as the longest running F-14 Demo pilot.  Snort went on to fly over 800 airshows in all types of aircraft performing his signature extreem low passes in the P-51 Mustang, MiG 15, MiG 17, P-40, T-6, L-39 and the F-86 Sabre thrilling audiences around North America for over 20 consecutive years...

Sadly, On July 24th 2021, Dale “Snort” Snodgrass flew west. The legendary F-14 Tomcat pilot, and famed air show performer was lost while doing what he loved most. He will be greatly missed by the F-14 Tomcat community, his air show family, and most of all, his family and friends...Nickle in the grass Snort.   

I hope there's a place, way up in the sky
Where pilots can go when they have to die.
A place where a guy could buy a cold beer
For a friend and a comrade whose memory is dear.
A place where no doctor or lawyer could tread,
Nor a management-type would e'ler be caught dead!
Just a quaint little place, kind of dark, full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke.
The kind of a place that a lady could go
And feel safe and secure by the men she would know.

There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their wings become heavy, when their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And songs about flying and dying are sung.
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd 'flown west' before,
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door,
Who would buy you a drink, if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"

And there, through the mist, you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen in years, though he'd taught you to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear
And say, "Welcome, my Son, I'm proud that you're here!
For this is the place where true flyers come
When the battles are over, and the wars have been won.
They've come here at last, to be safe and alone,
>From the government clerk, and the management clone;
Politicians and lawyers, the Feds, and the noise,
Where all hours are happy, and these good ol' boys
Can relax with a cool one, and a well deserved rest!
This is Heaven, my Son. You've passed your last test!"

— Captain Michael J. Larkin

Image Capture: Mike Westra 





  • Brian Robertson

    This was actually in 1989 in the I/O. Not a dependants day Tiger Cruise. I have the same pic, with me in it, that I took with a disposable camera.

  • Wayne Peeler

    Sweet flyboy…..sweet!

  • Chris Kranick

    I was there aboard the America. Was awesome!

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