Alumni Defy Gravity and the Odds with the Blue Angels
EVEN THE BEST of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have only the slightest chance of becoming part of the elite Blue Angels, whose aerobatic jet flying wows millions of air show spectators around the country each year.
There are only seven coveted spots for the dauntless F/A-18 pilots and 110 crucial positions for crew and support personnel. A simple statistical anomaly then, prideful JMU folks would prefer to think, shouldn't explain two alumni who served as the Navy's 1995-97 airborne, goodwill ambassadors to the world.
JMU's most visible Blue Angel was fighter pilot and USMC Maj. Pat Cooke ('83), who streaks through the sky at almost twice the speed of sound and shows off the Navy's aviation skill, technology and integral U.S. defense role.
But without the organizational and logistical savvy of Naval supply officer Lt. Duke Heinz ('89), this Top Gun spectacle would never leave the tarmac for the 68 air shows of the 300-day demonstration season.
Montpelier caught up with Cooke and Heinz at one of those air shows at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., last fall, as the two alumni neared completion of their overlapping Blue Angels tours of duty.