Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fat Albert's JATO Demo Going Away

There's nothing like solid rocket fuel bursting into flames to get an air-show crowd's attention.

The jet-assisted takeoff, or JATO, is a fan favorite at the annual Oceana Air Show, which takes place this weekend. But this is the final year you'll be able to see it.

The maneuver is performed by Fat Albert, the Marine-crewed C-130 cargo plane that carries the Blue Angels' gear. At takeoff, the crew fires eight rocket "bottles" that blast the mammoth plane 1,000 feet into the air in about 15 seconds - simulating a launch under hostile conditions.

Trouble is, the bottles date to the Vietnam War, and it costs about $16,000 to get one reinspected and approved for use, said Capt. Edward Jorge, one of the plane's pilots. The expense has become prohibitive.

"We're going to be very sad," he said. "But ya know, all good things come to an end."