Richard Carl Oliver
Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy
of Jim Cochran: January 2006
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, September 2, 1966 – A United States Navy jet of the Blue Angels acrobatic team, performing before thousands of spectators at the Canadian National Exhibition, crashed and burned today on the shore of Lake Ontario.
The pilot, Lieutenant Commander Dick Oliver, 31 years old, of Fort Mills, South Carolina, was killed.
One witness said the pilot caught a wingtip in the water during a high-speed pass about 3,000 yards from a packed grandstand, went out of control and smashed into a breakwater on the edge of Toronto Island, just south of Toronto. A big column of black smoke rose from the wreckage.
Another witness, a radio and television reporter said the “plane and pilot disintegrated and parts of the pilot’s body were found hundreds of feet from point of impact.”
Commander Oliver, the number five man in the
Blue Angels’ lineup, was flying a Grumman F11 Tiger, a swept-wing jet.
TORONTO, Canada, September 2, 1966 – A jet piloted by one of the United States Navy’s precision flying Blue Angels from Pensacola, Florida, crashed into Lake Ontario today during a flying exhibition at the Canadian National Exhibition’s annual air show.
The pilot was identified as Lieutenant Commander Dick Oliver, 31, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, a 1955 graduate of Duke University at Durham, North Carolina. He was killed instantly.
A crowd of 100,000 watched horrified as the blue jet, a Grumman F-11A Tiger, plummeted from the sky toward Lake Ontario where it hit a breakwater and burst into flames.
The pilot of a standby rescue helicopter was hit by flying metal. He was rushed to Toronto Western Hospital where doctors treated him for cuts and shock. His condition was not serious.
Oliver was in a maneuver called a “knife edge,” with Lieutenant Norman Candia of Long Island, New York, had completed it and appeared outbound at about 500 miles an hour when the crash occurred.
John Holden, publicity director for the exhibition, said the crash occurred during a stunt where two planes fly directly at each other, pass, and then do a complete roll.
It was believed the downed plane, heading east, dipped too low and went out of control. A military investigation was ordered to determine the cause of the crash.
Oliver was the third member of the famed stunt team to die at this exhibition in the last 12 years. Oliver had been with the Blue Angels since April 1964. Others were killed in 1954 and 1958.
Toronto’s island airport, near where the crash took place, was placed under tight military control.
The Blue Angels are officially known as the United States Demonstration Team. The stunt flying team formed 20 years ago has become world famous as an ace flying team.
Each year they performed above millions of spectators at shows such as the Canadian National Exhibition.
The Blue Angels, led by Commander Bob Aumack, 37, of Mays Landing, New Jersey, fly the trickiest aircraft maneuvers in the book. Their diamond formation at 500 miles an hour is considered the tightest in the world.
Since their first flight demonstration in Grumman
F6F Hellcats in June 1946, the Blue Angels have thrilled an estimated 80
September 6, 1966 – “Vietnam is where I’d like to be next,” said Lieutenant Commander Dick Oliver a month before his Navy blue jet burst into flames, killing him in Lake Ontario.
“The more I read about the air war there, the more I wish I were there with those boys helping out,” he said. “I’d really like to try my skill as a pilot under those conditions.”
His death Friday left that wish ungranted and left vacant slot number five in the United States Demonstration Team known informally to millions around the world as the Blue Angels.
Oliver was interviewed at Glenview Naval Air Station during the last weekend in July when the six fast F-11A Tiger jets performed in the closing days of the 1966 national model airplane meet. He also flew over the lake front three weeks later when the Blue Angels performed for the Venetian Nights Air and Water Show.
His five flying companions will pay their last respects at graveside tomorrow when Oliver is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
“I’m not alone when it comes to wanting to go to Vietnam,” Oliver, 31, a native of Fort Mill, South Carolina, has said. “I think all of us in the Blue Angels would like to be there.”
When it came to flying, Oliver was considered
one of the best in the team. He was one of two solo pilots who performed
the most difficult stunts ever developed in acrobatic flying. He
crashed while in the midst of such a stunt.
Posted: 31 Janaury 2006 Updated: 18 December 2007 Updated: 27 September 2009