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 

 

 


17 comments


  • 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!


  • Donald Gentry

    Been so long since I’ve heard a sonic boom! Wish they would do it at least once during every demonstration, what a joy it would be. Love jet noise!


  • Vincent Donile

    I am Captain Vince Donile. I was doing Mach .99 when I crossed a cool lake and the F4 went supersonic. Yes some windows were broken, but Kelowna was now the center of attention. People came to the airshow in numbers never anticipated. Hotels and restaurants were packed and the town was now on the map. Attendance was extraordinary and the City fathers were pleased beyond their expectations. Some good did come from this.


  • David Storm

    Should have invited the Thunderbirds!!!!


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