On June 3rd, the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida dedicated its Ready Room and an exhibit to the legendary naval aviator Captain Dale “Snort” Snodgrass. According to the museum’s press release… “It was a wonderful evening filled with many memories, more than a few tales and much laughter intermingled with a few tears.”
Captain Dale O. “Snort” Snodgrass embodied the Navy motto Semper Fortis – Always Courageous. He was a celebrated naval officer and aviator for 27 years, a talented demonstration pilot, and the dedicated chief pilot who died tragically in his SIAI-Marchetti 1019 taking off from the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport in Idaho on July 24, 2021. Snort was 72.
Dale was raised in Lake Ronkonkoma, New York, and attended the University of Minnesota as an NROTC Midshipman setting records as an All-American swimmer. He graduated in August 1972, commissioned as an Ensign with the U.S. Navy. Selected for jets, he completed his naval flight training in December 1973 and was one of the first fighter pilots to fly the F-14 Tomcat. He was selected to attend and graduated from U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (better known as TOPGUN) at NAS Miramar, California and then served as a weapons training officer. As a Lieutenant, he earned his Landing Signal Officer (LSO) qualification for all wing aircraft and was later selected as the Air Wing LSO for Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8). In 1983, then Lieutenant Commander Snodgrass became the operations officer of the Atlantic Fleet adversary squadron (VF-43) at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia. A remarkable airman, he was selected as the 1985 Fighter Pilot of the Year and 1986 Grumman Aerospace TOPCAT of the Year. After serving as the executive officer for Fighter Squadron 101 (VF-101) in 1988, the Navy selected him to command VF-33 Starfigthers.
In April 1993, he began service in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as section head of OPNAV N88, Aviation Training Resources. A year later, he was promoted to Captain and selected for a major command. In April 1994, Captain Snodgrass became commodore of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, based at NAS Oceana. In February 1997, he returned to Washington, D.C. as head of the House Liaison Office for the Navy Office of Legislative Affairs where he served until his retirement from the Navy in June 1999. His personal decorations include two Legion of Merit awards, the Bronze Star, two Air Medals, three Strike/Flight Air Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V, three Navy Commendation Medals, and two Navy Achievement Medals.
After military retirement, Snodgrass founded DS Airshows Inc. and co-founded Draken International serving as Chief Pilot, Lead for the Draken Black Diamond Flight Team and Director of Operations for Draken’s Adversarial Combat Training. Dale was also notably recognized as one of only ten authorized U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight pilots.
Dale “Snort” Snodgrass accumulated over 13,000 hours in tactical aircraft during his career and is considered amongst the greatest fighter pilots of all time.