Dale “Snort” Snodgrass was among America’s most legendary pilots.  You can see him flying at an airshow in the picture above.  He’s piloting the F-86 Sabre, one of the first American combat jets to see use in battle.  It’s the plane center left.  There’s a photograph of Snodgrass flying an F-14 Tomcat sideways off the deck of a naval vessel.  It has become one of the most famous photographs in the history of aviation.

In 1985, Snodgrass was named the Navy’s top pilot.

He appeared indestructible.  It’s why the events of Saturday are so tragic.  He was killed in a crash at a small airport in Lewiston.  The plane burst into flames and rescue teams found him dead.

In 1985, Snodgrass was named the Navy’s top pilot.

Oscar Evans spent years flying for our country and has now settled down to a ranching life in Homedale, Idaho.  He also works in real estate.  He’s one of those rare Americans who had air time in both the Navy and Air Force.  He posted memories on Facebook on Sunday.

From the earliest days of flight, the men and women who took to the air exuded a brashness and a “can do” attitude.  You could also call it a “live for today” approach to life.  Roaring through the air at speeds most of us will never experience requires physical and mental traits only a few have developed.

An old friend served for two years with the Thunderbirds and shared a story of being a rear seat passenger when suddenly the thrust kicked in.  He explained you suddenly see the world as if looking through a straw and you quickly “pucker”.

My guess is Dale “Snort” Snodgrass packed more into one life than any other human being walking around today.  In some respects, he departed this world as if by Hollywood script.

 

LOOK: 100 years of American military history