The Pensacola SkyhawksThursday, June 01, 2006
My story of the Pensacola Skyhawks really began in 1951 in Buenos Aires when Narciso Ramos, the Minister of the Philippine Legation in Argentina (the Philippines did not have an embassy yet), picked me up in his dark blue 1950 Lincoln. He was taking me to a Harlem Globetrotters game at the Luna Park. Inside the car there was a young man smartly dressed in a West Point military uniform. Narciso Ramos became Foreign Minister under Marcos many years later and the young man in the uniform was his son, Fidel who was elected president of the Philippines in 1992. Narciso Ramos had two daughters, Leticia and Gloria. Leticia Ramos-Shahani was a senator during Marcos's presidency. Gloria, who was extremely beautiful, married a dashing US Naval aviator. The aviator, Aldo Jacinto DaRodda and Gloria would vist us in Mexico in the 50s and 60s and by then he was a flight instructor at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
In 1965 as a conscript of the Argentine Navy I was given the task of translating into Spanish the maintenance and operating manuals of the obsolescent McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks that the Armada República Argentina had just purchased from the US. I got to know these planes very well. An American Marine Corps pilot (he had the shakes as a result of fighting in the Korean war) explained everything I had to know about the planes.
During a chance viewing of a CBC TV news report during the Malvinas War I saw an Argentine Navy A-4Q Skyhawk streak very low over the horizon and suddenly there was a puff and the plane disappeared, just like that. I found that I felt no emotion for the Argentine pilot but I was devastated by the loss of what I had come to consider as one of my airplanes.
Four years ago I went to Pensacola, Florida on a travel magazine assignment. I had my heart set in going to the Pensacola Naval Air Station to visit the museum. I was thrilled to see four Blue Angel Skyhawks suspended dramatically from the museum ceiling. There was also a beautiful old Spanish fort inside the base (bottom, right).
Driving to Pensacola I took, perhaps, my most technically difficult photograph. Try to photograph a low flying Skyhawk while driving!