Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Oldest of the Blues Still Feels the Spirit; Al Taddeo Helped to Start the Elite Team in 1946

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Oldest of the Blues Still Feels the Spirit; Al Taddeo Helped to Start the Elite Team in 1946

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT COLEMAN

The F6F Hellcat was the pinnacle of aircraft technology when he was tearing through the skies six decades ago.

Sturdy and powerful, the fighter aircraft was a keystone of the U.S. air assault in World War II. He came to know it well while serving in the Pacific Theater, and it was the first plane used by the Blue Angels.

But with all the high-tech aeronautics on display Saturday at the Jax Air Show, he couldn't help but let his eyes wander.

Al Taddeo, the oldest living Blue Angels pilot, returned to the squad's birthplace at Jacksonville Naval Air Station as the air show's guest of honor. Taddeo, 89, hadn't been in Jacksonville since 1954.

"It seems to have grown a bit since then," he said with a wry laugh.

He was handpicked in 1946 to join a fledgling flight-demonstration squad created to attract new recruits for the Navy. Taddeo - 27 at the time - signed on with three other pilots to form the inaugural Blue Angels lineup. The group of hot-shot wingmen flew in tight formation and performed elaborate stunts that wowed spectators.

The show Saturday was evidence that not much has changed.

Their rides have steadily improved throughout the decades, but Taddeo said the soul of the Angels has remained the same.

John Scorby, Jacksonville Naval Air Station commanding officer, said "it made perfect sense" to invite the oldest living Blue Angel back to the birthplace of the Blues. The new pilots swapped stories with their forerunner and presented him with an autographed lithograph.

Taddeo said he's proud to see how far the squad has come. His first exhibition was a little more than 10 minutes long. Now the Blues draw thousands for their elaborate demonstrations. It almost makes him want to suit up one last time.

"I might be an old guy now, but in my mind I'd like to jump in and fly one of them," he said. …

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