Fallen angels

Blue Angels: For its volunteers, allure of flying with this elite group outweighs inherent danger.

October 31, 1999

THE DEATHS of two Navy Blue Angels in a routine exercise demonstrates the danger ever present in precision acrobatic flying. The naval aviators who volunteer for this elite squad know this better than anyone, but the allure for them outweighs the risks.

Lt. Commander Kieron O'Connor, 35, of Burtonsville and Lt. Kevin Colling, 32, of Castle Rock, Colo., will be missed by their families, friends and the Navy. Naval investigators must determine the cause of the accident and make whatever changes are necessary in training and maintenance to prevent its repeat.

Including last week's accident claiming two skilled fliers in their prime, 23 pilots have died in air shows or training since the Blue Angels began in 1946. The last death was 14 years ago. The squad canceled its show at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, where the accident occurred. But the Angels, to the delight of millions of spectators, will be back in the air again.

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