Angels old, new set for air show

Photos by Gretel Daugherty—A Blue Angels banks left as it prepares to land at Grand Junction Regional Airport, one of six F/A-18 Hornets to fly in Wednesday. The Blue Angels will perform during the West Star Aviation Grand Junction Air Show on Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday.



The lead aircraft in a formation of F/A-18 Hornet jets begins to peel away as the Blue Angels, the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, prepare to land Wednesday at Grand Junction Regional Airport.



A photo of the Navy’s original Blue Angels flight demonstration team includes Al Taddeo, a World War II combat pilot. Taddeo, now 93, will be part of the Grand Junction Air Show this weekend.



With military-aviation memories that reach back as far as World War II, Al Taddeo is the last of the original Blue Angel pilots.

Taddeo, 93, who retired from the U.S. Navy as a commander in 1963 after a 21-year career, will take part in the Grand Junction Air Show this weekend at Grand Junction Regional airport.

A fighter pilot who downed three enemy planes during the war, Taddeo said the invention of the angled flight deck on carriers marked a giant leap in military aviation.

When he made 350 landings aboard aircraft carriers such as the USS Enterprise, pilots took off and landed on a straight line from bow to stern of the carrier. The idea was that a cable strung across the desk would stop landing planes before they careened into the parked planes at the stern, Taddeo said. Today, pilots take off and land on a deck that crosses the bow of the craft. Not only are there no aircraft parked at the end of the runway, but the open end allows a pilot to open the throttle and take back off should his tailhook not catch the cable.

As a result of that development, modern pilots now have as many as 1,000 carrier landings, Taddeo said.

His distinction as the last of the original Blue Angels isn’t the only one he owns, Taddeo said.

Only bachelors could apply to be a Blue Angel when the team was first formed, Taddeo said Wednesday during a telephone conversation with his son, Ed Parker Taddeo, owner and operator of Parker Machinery Inc. in Grand Junction.

The Blue Angels’ first air show was on June 15, 1946, at Craig Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Our first show was a great success, as we were declared the best performer and awarded the winner’s trophy.” Taddeo wrote in a short biography. “That trophy is in the Blues ready room today, 66 years and counting.”

It wasn’t long after that Taddeo opted for another change and asked his commander for permission to break the bachelorhood barrier.

“I was the first to marry and still fly with the team,” Taddeo said.

Taddeo has visited Grand Junction before with the air show.

His father’s experience as a pilot with aerial combat experience also makes Taddeo a rarity, said his son, who goes by Ed Parker.

Modern pilots have combat training, but no experience, which makes his father’s recollections all the more valuable, Parker said.

Taddeo was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Taddeo is flying to Grand Junction from southern California on a private jet provided by Tammy Allen of Allen Unique Autos in Grand Junction and fuel will be provided by West Star, a sponsor of the Grand Junction Air Show.

The air show takes off Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the airport.

Tickets are available at the airport at 6 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets also can be purchased online at http://www.gjairshow.com.

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