Fargo AirSho veteran remembers Blue Angels pilot as 'a first-class guy'
FARGO--The news that Blue Angels pilot Jeff Kuss died Thursday, June 2, during a practice flight in Smyrna, Tenn., hit Dick Walstad hard. Walstad, a longtime organizer of AirSho events in Fargo, befriended the U.S. Marine Corps captain during pla...
FARGO--The news that Blue Angels pilot Jeff Kuss died Thursday, June 2, during a practice flight in Smyrna, Tenn., hit Dick Walstad hard.
Walstad, a longtime organizer of AirSho events in Fargo, befriended the U.S. Marine Corps captain during planning for the AirSho here last summer and the two men remained close after the Blue Angels moved on.
"I knew him (Kuss) very well. He was kind of the lead guy in coordinating the show for the Blue Angels," Walstad said Friday, June 3.
Walstad said he and Kuss worked closely together for many months leading up the Fargo show. After the Blue Angels arrived, it was Kuss's job as the squadron's No. 7 pilot to give rides to selected celebrities and do the public addressing during performances.
"He did the announcing and was absolutely superb with announcing," Walstad said. After the Blue Angels left Fargo, Kuss became the squadron's No. 6 pilot, he said, meaning his plane became one of the six that fly the tight formations and thrilling maneuvers that have made the Blue Angels famous.
Walstad said part of Kuss's role in the current show was to make a steep climb moments after taking off from the runway. Kuss was apparently practicing that move when something went wrong Thursday, he said.
"I'm guessing he probably had a plane failure, maybe an engine went out," Walstad said.
"I kind of suspect he could have ejected, but he may have stayed with the plane to make sure it didn't fly into any populated areas."
He said Kuss was part of a Blue Angels flyover during the start of the Feb. 7 Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif.
Walstad said as he watched the game, he noticed the Blue Angels pilots standing on the sidelines watching the game.
He immediately texted Kuss to find out how that happened if he was involved in the flyover.
Kuss replied that after the flyover, he and his fellow pilots landed at a nearby Naval base and received a helicopter ride back to the game.
"He was one of the best contact people we've ever worked with," Walstad said of Kuss.
"Just a first-class guy, great pilot and a good friend."