MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Georgia
A jet from the Navy's Blue Angels precision flying team crashed during a training flight Thursday while trying to land under clear skies. Both people aboard were killed.
The F/A-18 Hornet went down around midday on a farm near Moody Air Force Base in southernmost Georgia, plowing into a stand of pines. The Blue Angels were scheduled to perform at the base this weekend.
“They were coming in to land, practicing arrival maneuvers, when this happened,” said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon in Washington. “We don't know what caused it.”
Killed were Lieutenant Commander Kieron O'Connor, 35, of Burtonsville, Maryland, and Lieutenant Kevin Colling, 32, of Castle Rock, Colorado, according to Commander Patrick Driscoll, flight leader of the Blue Angels.
“They are two of the best naval aviators I know. This is a tragic loss to the families, to the Blue Angels and the U.S. Navy,” Driscoll said.
The Blue Angels have canceled their participation in this weekend's show, Driscoll said.
Wednesday, November 3, 1999
Blue Angels crash victims remembered
Mourners fill 1,000-seat chapel at Pensacola NAS
PENSACOLA, Florida – The Blue Angels, the Navy's precision flying team, paid tribute Tuesday to two fallen pilots.
The Blue Angels' six jets were parked side-by-side like gleaming winged sentries, immobile and silent in the night.
Mourners filled the 1,000-seat main chapel at Pensacola Naval Air Station during a public memorial service for Lieutenant Commander Kieron O'Connor and Lieutenant Kevin Colling.
They died when their F/A-18 Hornet, a spare ordinarily not flown in air shows, crashed Thursday in southern Georgia while on a familiarization run over Moody Air Force Base, where the team had been scheduled to perform over the weekend.
“Why? We've all been asking the question why?” said Commander Patrick Driscoll, the Blue Angels' flight leader and commanding officer. “After considerable thought, I've come to the conclusion that I'm asking the wrong question. Why belongs to God's domain.”
O'Connor, 35, of Burtonsville, Maryland, had been with the six-plane team since last November. Colling, 32, of Castle Rock, Colorado, was a new member in training.
The Blue Angels canceled their participation in the air shows at Moody, near Valdosta, Georgia, and at Jacksonville Naval Air Station on Saturday and Sunday.
They will, however, go ahead with their season-ending homecoming shows November 12-13 in Pensacola, although with only five jets.
BLUE ANGELS F/A-18 CRASH LEAVES TWO CREW DEAD
An F/A-18B with the Navy’s Blue Angels flying team crashed last Thursday while trying to land, killing both crew members. The F/A-18B Hornet went down near Moody Air Force Base in southern Georgia, plowing into a stand of pines.
Killed were Lieutenant Commander Kieron O’Connor and Lieutenant Kevin Colling. O’Connor flew the #3 Left Wing position on the current team, and Colling was slated to fly for the team next year. The Navy canceled the weekend’s show and is investigating.
PENSACOLA – In a show dedicated to two team members who didn't return, the Blue Angels came home to Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday.
Six of the demonstration squadron's seven FA-18 Hornets took to the skies to perform the near-miss passes, screaming flyovers and other stunts for which they are famous, but many of the estimated 55,000 in attendance couldn't help but gaze at the one jet that remained on the ground.
Fighter No. 3 sat on the flight line throughout the show, a silent reminder of the two Blue Angels who lost their lives in a crash during a training flight last month.
Lieutenant Commander Kieron O'Conner, 35, and Lieutenant Kevin Colling, 32, a new team member in training, were killed October 28, 1999, while preparing for an air show at Moody Air Force Base, Georiga. The crew members were flying in the squadron's one two-seater jet.
Some 2,500 blue ribbon stickers were handed out by United Service Organizations and the numbers 3/33 were inked on the tail of the Blue Angels' fighters in honor of the two pilots – “3” for O'Conner's aircraft number and “33” for Colling's training number.
Although the Blues' performance appeared seamless, as they took to the sky for the final performance of the show, certain holes surfaced:
The hole created when the Blues' announcer jumped from introducing the pilot of fighter No. 2 to introducing the pilot of fighter No. 4.
The hole created when the diamond-shaped formation was missing a jet.
The hole created when the squadron slipped into missing-man formation, leaving an open slot for fighter No.3, to honor the late pilots.
While NAS Pensacola officials stopped short of saying they expected larger crowds this weekend in response to the crash, spokesman Patrick Nichols predicted a larger turnout than last year because “the people of Pensacola really want to support the Blues.”
In addition to the Blue Angels' performance, other military and civilian flight demonstrations highlighted the free event and some 60 static displays were featured.
Two sisters, Barbara, 17, and 13-year-old Kelly Worthington of Montgomery, Alabama, found shade under the wing of a T-39.
The older Worthington said she froze when she heard of the crash – she helps baby sit one of the Blue Angels' children and found out about the accident before the names of the pilots had been released.
Even with the initial shock of hearing of the crash, the two said, accidents are part of military aviation. Both their older brother and their father are Navy pilots, Kelly said.
“My dad flies everyday and you don't think about it, you just know (a crash) could happen,” she said.
Wesley Delware, whose son Wesley James helps maintain the squadron, said dedicating the show to the lost men was just the right thing to do.
“My son was there when the two pilots went down,” he recalled Friday while gazing at a bomber on display. “I hurt inside, even today, over the loss of those two pilots.”
Sitting in the shade provided by the tail of a P-3 on display, Cheri Boes watched her 9-year-old son Taylor race toward the open-for-tours KC-10.
It is a family tradition to attend the air shows, the Pensacola native said.
“We've had Taylor out here since he was in a stroller,” Boes said. “The Blue Angels is such a rich part of the history of Pensacola, it is something we can call our own.
“(The crash) was just devastating,” she continued. “But there is a risk anytime they get in those planes and go up in the air – not just the Blue Angels pilots, but any pilot.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 1, 1999
Ice Pilots to Wear Patch in Honor of Blue Angels
Pensacola, Florida – The Pensacola Ice Pilots announced today that they will have their players wearing a commerative patch in honor of Blue Angels Lieutenant Commander Kieron O'Connor and Lieutenant Kevin Colling who were killed on Thursday during a pre-air show practice flight near Valdosta, Georgia.
“The Ice Pilots organization has been affected emotionally and spiritually on the death of Lieutenant Commander Kieron O'Connor and Lieutenant Kevin Colling. Our sympathy and prayers go out to the Blue Angels and the families of O'Connor and Colling. Our players will wear a commerative patch with the names of both on their jersey's for both home and away games for the entire season,” said Ice Pilots Vice President of Business Operations Neil Hoyt.
October 28, 1999
Earned their heavenly wings of gold
Lieutenant Commander Kieron O'Connor, 35, of Burtonsville, Maryland
Lieutenant Kevin Colling, 32, of Castle Rock, Colorado
“I am deeply saddened that today America lost two of its bravest and most distinguished Naval aviators…At this time of great loss — a loss that we all share — my heartfelt prayers go to their families, their shipmates and to the entire Navy.” President Bill Clinton
COLLING, KEVIN PARK
- LT US NAVY
- PERSIAN GULF
- DATE OF BIRTH: 02/04/1967
- DATE OF DEATH: 10/28/1999
- BURIED AT: SECTION 66 SITE 6665
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard