The Day a Blue Angel Phantom Took Out Downtown

"On Thursday afternoon and evening, thousands of eyes will move skyward, to watch one of the most spectacular aerobatic teams in the world. The famous United States Blue Angels will fly for Okanagan residents and visitors during the 63rd edition of Canada's greatest water show. The Blue Angels, officially known as the U.S. navy flight demonstration team, have for 23 years thrilled millions of spectators with spectacular demonstrations of precision acrobatic and formation flying. The manoeuvres, taught individually to every naval aviator during flight training, are exhibited to perfection when flown by the Blue Angels in their Mach 2 Phantoms." - August 6, 1969 - The Kelowna Daily Courier

During practice on the morning of the 7th of August. Marine Capt. Vince D. Donile flying Right Wing #3 in his F-4J Phantom was setting up inbound for the Four Plane Cross maneuver, when he noticed he had fallen behind in positioning. Compensating for his tardiness, Capt. Donile elected to light up his over 18,000 pounds of thrust with afterburners accelerating towards the crossing point at show centre.

Unfortunately Capt Donile was moments too late when he deselected his burners, and his USN F-4 Phantom announced his error to the world as it shattered the morning air with a deafening sonic boom. Even more unfortunate, was the fact that Caps Donile exceeded the speed of sound directly over the downtown core of Kelowna BC. The shock wave produced by the supersonic jet blew out thousands of windows on homes and shop windows spread out over an 8 block radius of the downtown area.  Hundreds of Canadian residents gathered to survey the damage.  Many used the first thing they had available to clean up the shattered glass...snow shovels.  

 The United States Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron first flew in 1946, and have been seen by well over 260 million people since their first airshow. The Blue Angels have demonstrated an immpresively high safety record of operations...and although breaking the sound barrier is an effective way to announce an airshow, this was a one time occurrence for the Blues.  One that is not likely to be repeated.    

Sure does make for a good story though...

 

UPDATE - December 2018

We were contacted by USN Captain Vincent Donile USN Blue Angels #2 who gave us a first hand account, and corrected us on some missing aspects of the story.

"There are some additional parts to your story that need to be mentioned. I was so sorry this happened, but Kelowna was now on every TV station in Canada and received publicity that could never duplicated. People came in numbers never anticipated to see the airshow. Every hotel was full and restaurants were packed. Merchants did record sales numbers and the City fathers told me at dinner the next day that they were pleased beyond their wildest expectations with the attendance in the city, and it was the best thing that could have happened for Kelowna. We flew 2 great airshows for them that weekend."
 
We had great fun in the F4J Such a powerhouse. Took a little practice to get it in formation, but it was solid and a great look in airshows. Needless to say it was fast and powerful. I was a little late for that 4 plane cross in Kelowna and was doing mach .99 to catch up, which I did, but I flew over a cold lake and went supersonic for a second or two...
 
"The rest is history."

 

 


10 comments


  • Chris V Sink

    Oh how I miss the Fox 4’s! If there was ever an airplane platform that was an awesome demonstration of raw power it’s the F-4. I was was thrilled to get a ride in one out of Wolf Squadron in Ubon or Udorn Thiland back in the day in SEA. My unit had charge of all the ground directed bombing in the Vietnam War. We had just perfected the art of using the F-4 in the worst conditions imaginable for close air support bombing and even got so good at it that we could even run 20 Mike Mike on occasion. I once met a ground pounder that thanked me for the hot shell casings that fell on his head one foggy afternoon when they were about to be ovrrun and they thought close air support was impossible! We were working with an Army FAC on the ground and he was forwarding the ground coordinates to one of our two sites and we coordinated all of this in real time 👌. I was in the O club bragging this feat up one afternoon and the wingman was standing at the bar a few feet away from me! That’s how I got the courtesy ride in the F-4 one beautiful afternoon in SEA 😀 I have been a pilot since I was fifteen and flunked out of fighter school (USAF) because I couldn’t handle the G’s but I didn’t share this information with the good Captain or his Crew Chief until we got back down on the ground 👍. Every time I see that commercial with the lizard in the back seat of the WWII bird I think about that wonderful afternoon in the F-4 and the great guys who made it all happen 😁! Thanks for the memories!


  • Richard Keane

    I was also there as a member of the Blues and I still have the newspaper from Kelowna


  • Dave Kent

    Correction:
    Capt.Donile was in #2 Right Wing
    I was the Crew Chief in the backseat of

    flown by Lt Christensen. We were head
    On to and watching for #2.
    That night arriving in town for the Chamber Of Commerce meet and great we
    Got to see the plywood windows painted with “Dam You Red Baron/ Yankee Go Home.It was a fun tume. Years later my wife and I visited Kelowna in the S end of Lake Okanogan.one of the most beautiful places on the earth I had vowed in 1969 I would return to. Dave Kent UAL Capt Ret.

  • Gwen Hall Davis

    I remember the story being told as my brother, Cmdr. Harley H. Hall was getting ready to take over the Blue Angels as the Commander.


  • Suzanne Schweikarth

    I would have loved to have heard that! Love the Blue Angels!


Leave a comment