Snodgrass was the sole occupant of a SIAI-Marchetti SM.1019 that crashed at Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport.
The legendary F-14 Tomcat pilot Dale “Snort” Snodgrass, the type’s most experienced pilot, tragically lost his life on July 24, 2021 in a plane crash at Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport, Idaho. Snodgrass was the only person onboard a SIAI Marchetti SM.1019, a small Italian-made STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft built in the 1970s off the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog’s design, that crashed at midday shortly after takeoff and caught fire.
While initially it was only rumored, the presence of Snodgrass on the aircraft was confirmed by airport manager Michael Isaacs, as reported by the Lewiston Tribune website. The Lewiston Fire Department stated that the aircraft came down in a field and caught fire just off the airport’s taxiway Charlie, with the rescue services responding to the emergency call at 12:11 pm and bringing the fire under control in fewer than five minutes.
The causes of the incident are unknown at this time and the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) officials are on scene to begin the investigation. According to the Aviation Safety Network website, the mishap aircraft was the SM.1019B registered as N28U and belonging to Snodgrass’ company 717 Aviation Inc.
Snodgrass retired as a Captain from the U.S. Navy after 26 years of decorated service. His career was remarkable since the beginning, when he became the first student to be selected to fly the F-14 Tomcat straight from the flight school. Later on, he became the F-14 demonstration pilot, a role that he retained for more than a decade, during which he flew remarkable displays at the edge of the Tomcat’s flight envelope. A famous shot from this period is the knife-edge pass at flight deck level over the CV-66 USS America in 1988.
Moving on in his military career, Snodgrass rose through the ranks until he became Commander Fighter Wing Atlantic, in charge of the F-14 operation of the entire Navy and also spearheading the Tomcat’s Precision Strike effort. When he retired, he was the pilot with the highest time in the F-14, having logged more than 4,900 flight hours (including 34 combat missions over Iraq in 1991 during Desert Storm) and 1,200 arrested landings on aircraft carriers. Among his records, he was also a TOPGUN graduate and instructor.
After retirement, Snodgrass continued to fly jets and warbirds at airshows, becoming qualified to fly F-86 Sabre, P-51 Mustang, P-40 Warhawk, F4U Corsair, T-6/SNJ Texan, L-39 Albatros, MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-21 and, more recently, the F-5 Tiger, but also as Chief Pilot for Draken International. His most recent count shows more than 12,500 flight hours in countless aircraft types, both civilian and demilitarized aircraft. In the last 20 years, he flew during more than 850 airshows.