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 a pre air show practice on the morning of the 7th of August; Capt. Vince D. Donile flying Right Wing #2 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 36,000 pounds of thrust with afterburners, quickly accelerating towards the crossing point at show centre.

Unfortunately Capt Donile was only 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 Capt 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 in a radius of the downtown area.  Hundreds of Canadian residents gathered to survey the damage.  Many arming themselves with 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."
USN Blue Angels Captain Vincent Donile 




  • Steve Leite

    During my tour in the Marine Corps, I had the privilege to serve in a Phantom Squadron, VMFA 334, at El Toro, In Danang, Chu Lia, and Iwakuni Japan. We transitioned from the F 8 Crusaders to the F 4 J . I served as a plane captain and fell in love with the phantom. I miss that aircraft, and the roar of its engines.

  • Paul

    U.S. Naval rank insignia differs among the other U.S. services. Two silver bars on the shoulders of a naval officer will designate a Lieutenant….not captain, and be addressed as Lieutenant. If the person is a Marine officer with the same two bars, e he/she will be addressed as “Captain”…as a Navy Lt. and a Marine Captain are of the same rank. They are both O-3’s. Yeah……squids are weird in their ways many times…I just won’t begin listing them all here……………..

  • Brian Trimmer

    Capt. Donile…

  • Lyle F. Padilla

    Former US Air Force F-4 Phantom Weapons Systems Officer (backseater) checking in. I was born in the Philippines and grew up in New Jersey, but did live in the Canadian Maritimes (the opposite coast from British Columbia) for three years in the late 1960s, including when this happened. IIRC, the headline in several Canadian newspapers was “Blue WHAT???”

  • Alan Martens

    You should have seen the departure some 892 Squadron Royal Navy F-4Ks made from Miramar on Ark Royal’s last visit to the East Coast. A strictly verbotten non standard high performance departure right over La Jolla. It blew out windows all over the place! The aircrews didn’t consider that they might have to return, but one aircraft had a BLC malfunction, declared an emergency and both jets returned to Miramar… To be summoned to the Admiral’s Office for an ass chewing. They made a very sedate departure the second try!

Leave a comment