Category Archives: INSIGHTS – Our Colorful Members

Stories about our members

A Texas WWII Gasoline Story You Probably Never Heard

  Captain, Nancy Aldrich

But, thanks to long-time FASF member and retired United Air Lines Captain, Nancy Aldrich, a loyal Texan, and regular aviation author, we have this fascinating and little-known story of how an East Texas refinery – and one of its sharper engineers, Tim Palucka – helped change the war’s outcome – in our favor – by his use of an obscure French patent on gasoline refining.

Without further ado, here’s the tale:

87 Octane Aviation Gasoline vs 100 130 Octane Aviation Gasoline in WWII

(This is a declassified article by the British Society of Chemists (Declassified in 2014) )
“It has always puzzled me as to why the German Luftwaffe kept on using 87 Octane Aviation Gasoline while the Americans and British used 100 Octane Gasoline in their Spitfire Fighters and Americans used 130 Octane in our P-51 and other fighters.  (see both aircraft below)

                                            P-51 Mustang leads Spitfire in close formation flight

This morning I discovered the reason!

It seems that the German and British aircraft both used 87 Octane Gasoline in the first two years of the war. While that was fairly satisfactory in the German  Daimler-Benz V-12 engine, It was marginal in the British Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine in British aircraft. It fouled the spark-plugs, caused valves to stick, And made frequent engine repair problems.

                                                                       P-51 Fighter in Flight

Then came lend-lease, and American aircraft began to enter British service in great numbers. If British engines hated 87 Octane gasoline, American, General Motors Built, Allison 1710 engines loathed and despised it.

                                             ME 109 Messerschmitts escorting Nazi Heinkel Bombers

                                                                             B-17E Flying Fortress

SUNOCO officials pour the billionth gallon of high octane aviation fuel produced during world war II

Something had to be done!
Along came an American named Tim Palucka, a chemist for Sun Oil (SUNOCO) in their South East Texas Refinery.
Never heard of him? Small wonder, very few people have. He took a French formula for enhancing the octane of Gasoline, and invented the “Cracking Tower” and produced 100 octane aviation Gasoline.
This discovery led to great joy among our English Cousins and great distress among the Germans. A Spitfire fueled with 100 Octane gasoline was 34 miles per hour faster at 10,000 feet.
The need to replace engines went from every 500 hours of operation to every 1,000 hours. Which reduced the cost of British aircraft by 300  Pounds Sterling. Even more, when used in 4 engine bombers.
The Germans couldn’t believe it when Spitfires that couldn’t catch them a year ago started shooting their ME-109 E and G models right out of the sky.
Of course, the matter had to be kept secret. If the Germans found out that it was a French Invention, They’d simply copy the original French patents. If any of you have ever wondered what they were doing in that 3 story white brick building in front of the Sun Oil Refinery on Old Highway 90, that was it.
They were re-inventing gasoline.
The American Allison engines improved remarkably with 100 Octane gasoline but did much better when 130 octane gasoline came along in 1944. The 130 Octane also improved the Radial Engined Bombers we produced.
The Germans and Japanese never snapped to the fact that we had re-invented gasoline. Neither did our “Friends” the Russians.
100,000 Americans died in the skies over Europe.  Lord only knows what that number would have been without “Super-Gasoline”. And it all was invented just a few miles west of Beaumont, and we never knew a thing about it.”
Aha – – – but there’s much more to this story than just recited above.  In 1935, 6 years before Pearl Harbor and his country’s entry into WWII, Jimmy Doolittle, had retired from the Army and was working for the Shell Oil Company.  He saw the need for a higher octane fuel if we should enter another war.  So, click here, for more on the important role he played in the fuel octane race, which is not mentioned in the opening story above.

NEW JUST-RELEASED TRIBUTE TO FASF FOUNDER, JIM DAVIS

Thanks to dear and close friend of Jim’s, Dave Clemmer, also an early member of the FASF, we now have this new moving special Tribute to Jim.

Dave attended Jim’s funeral, too, of which he’s included some of the photographs in which he captured Jim’s friends and family.

Simply click on the following photo of Jim, to enjoy a nostalgic photo-journey through much of Jim’s memorably accomplished life.  If it weren’t for Dave’s photographic collection, we’d have come up all too short of photographs of Jim, if for no other reason but that Jim was usually to be found behind, rather than in front of the cameras.

Make sure to have your speakers turned on because Dave musically scored this special Tribute.

Thanks again to Dave for the fine Tribute to Jim and for also supplying a number of photographs taken of Jim that we’d not seen before.  Below is one taken of Jim while a young man on active duty with the Air Force during the Korean War.

                         Jim on duty with the USAF in Korea during the war

 

Founder Jim Davis Left on his final flight this morning, 11/22

    Jim Davis – “Government Clerk” Left us today.

Jim Davis was one of the small group of aviation enthusiasts who founded the FASF in 2007. Jim remained an active Trustee and Officer until he retired in 2014. 

Even after he retired, he remained active as our principal Aviation Historian, being an integral part of U.S. Aviation history, himself.

In a masterpiece of his typical humor and understatement, Jim’s business card read: “Retired Government Clerk.”  

Actually, after his Korean War tour in the USAF, Jim worked as an air traffic controller in the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) – later to become the Federal Aviation¹ Administration (FAA).

 

In 1961 Jim established the FAA Administrator’s  Command Post.  In his leadership role, he was called upon to personally brief several U.S. Presidents on critical FAA issues, and it was Jim who developed Command and Control techniques still in use throughout the international aviation community to this day.

Except for a special assignment to help develop a modernized air traffic control system, he remained in Washington until his government retirement in 1990.

During his tenure with the FAA, Jim’s team, as an around-the-clock FAA presence, responded to some 20,000 annual contingencies; including major air disasters, aerial hijackings, and other emergencies that required immediate Federal response.

While still with the FAA, but even more active after his retirement from the agency, Jim personally videotaped many of aviation’s unsung pioneers. It was always difficult to imagine this extremely energetic and active chronicler of aviation history as being retired.  It is now more than difficult to accept that he is no longer even among us.

            [If you’d like to view the below photographs in full HD quality, simply click on them]

  Jim flying his Cessna 172 over the cemetery in which he was buried on 11/27/20 – Photo by his friend, Ken Peppard

Aerial view by Ken Peppard of Alberene Cemetery, in which Jim was interred on Friday 11/2720

Since retirement as that “Government Clerk,” Jim continued to fly his own personal airplane, (seen above) often using it to commute between his home on the East Coast and his local Columbus New Mexico Private Airpark residence – only a few miles north of the Historic First Aero Squadron Airfield he did so much to help preserve – and protect – for posterity.

Today, his dear and long-time friend and colleague, Dave Clemmer, also an early FASF member, called to give us the sad news of Jim’s final departure.

L to R above: Ken Hyde and Jim Davis posing in front of the Wright Flyer, much like the actual aeroplane first flown by the U.S. Army’s fledgling Air Branch in 1909, only 6 years after the Wright Brother’s first successful heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.  The “Flyer” was built by Ken’s group: The Wright Experience: If you look closely, you will see a functional yellow-colored Curtiss JN4, built by Ken’s group. This photo was taken by Jim’s friend, Dave Clemmer.

Those of us here at the FASF who were privileged to both know and work with Jim will never forget his uplifting spirit and hearty sense of humor.  His love of aviation and its history did more than one might imagine to help instigate the moves it took to get the FASF off and running as an educational and historical non-profit enterprise – – – one that, soon after its founding, was able to both secure and protect for prosperity the small New Mexico Airfield on which American Air Power began its illustrious climb to world-wide dominance – – – the same Airfield which also instigated the rebirth of American Civil Aviation, which had all but died after the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight in December of 1903.

Here is but one of Jim’s shorter videos.  It’s about the first engine start of the Wright Brother’s 1st U.S. Military Flyer replica, built by some of Jim’s close friends.  You can enjoy hearing Jim’s voice as he moderates the event on the video.  In the brief video clip, Jim notes the short appearance of his good friend, Dave Clemmer, who just notified us of Jim’s passing.

L to R: Tom Strickland, Jim and Ken Peppard (who helped Dave Clemmer with this memorial post).  All three of them are standing by the specially made  “CENTENNIAL OF FLIGHT” cake, on the memorial of that Centennial occasion.

With no exaggeration, without Jim’s vital help and positive energy, we would most likely not have either the FASF – – – or this website – – – nor would your webmaster be writing of this loss of our cherished and dearest friend.

Above, L to R: Dick Roe and Jim aboard his airport “Harley Davidson” cart.

May God rest his soul, and may we never forget his dedicated public service. We will certainly not forget how honored we have been to have had Jim’s indefatigable help and unbridled enthusiasm to help us establish this historical public enterprise, with its many meaningful contributions to aviation history, and its manifold collection of colorful memories, many of which are of Jim himself.

Our prayers and deepest sympathy go out to Jim’s wife, Sharon, his wonderful family, and his many friends across the country and abroad.

God bless you, Jim.

Click right HERE for a newly released special Tribute to Jim by his close friend, and long-time FASF member, Dave Clemmer.

¹ Your webmaster had to change the full name of the FAA because he’d mistakenly first called it the Federal Aeronautics Administration!  Calling me politely out on that error, was reader and old friend of Jim’s, Ken Peppard.

 

FASF Loses an early Organizer and Key Advisor, Bud Canfield

     FASF Advisory Board Member, Bud Canfield

William “Bud” Canfield, gave us his final goodbye this past weekend.  He had retired as the FASF Corporate Secretary and Chairman of its Elections Committee just five years ago.

Bud was born on March 13, 1938, in Connorsville, Wisconsin, and he and Jeane were married for 45 years.

Bud worked as a Dairy Farmer and Tractor and Implement Technical Specialist in Wisconsin, until 1989, when he and his wife, Jeane, moved to Columbus, NM, where he took a position as a State Park Ranger, later retiring, after several promotions, as a State Park Manager.

Long fascinated by aviation, although not a pilot himself, Bud, eagerly answered the call for assistance when the FASF first opened its doors in 2007.  Over his active years, Bud became close friends with a number of aviation enthusiasts and active pilots across the country.

After retiring from  the State Parks, he took over as President of the “Friends of  Pancho Villa State Park,” the local Park’s Docent group. To help assure that his fellow citizens had a library of which they could be rightfully proud, Bud chipped in as a long-time volunteer with the Columbus Library, whose wife, Jeane, was the library’s Director, until retiring in the Summer of 2015.  Both the Canfields simply couldn’t really retire, but continued to be extraordinarily active in their adopted community of Columbus.

As though not deeply enough engaged in his new community, Bud ran for, and was elected as a member of the Columbus Village Council, where he served as a Councilman for a number of years.  His wife, Jeane, was also a Village Trustee.

Additionally, Bud was an early active volunteer with the Columbus Historical Society, which took over the abandoned and run-down relic of the old Columbus Railroad Depot, and then restored it the the pristine condition in which visitors to Columbus now see it and enjoy its many historical artifacts and memorabilia of the infamous Pancho Villa Raid back on March 9, 1916, which event permanently put the small Village on the World Map.  If anything significant has happened in Columbus over the past 30 years, it will be difficult not to find that Bud was right in the center of the action.

He was an enthusiastic collector of, and an historical expert on antique agricultural vehicles and implements, as well. His personal collection of antique agricultural equipment is impressive and could easily prime a new museum dedicated to such early American mechanical farming implements.

Any of the below photos of Bud or Jeanne may be seen in full hi-resolution by clicking on them.

Here they are, as usual, volunteering to raise money for the Deming Animal Shelter at an Antique Car Show in 2015

An accomplished musician, this long-time Trustee was rarely found far from his trusty guitar, either, regularly performing around the SW New Mexico area with various bands, or just soloing various country-styled ballads and country western music, often accompanied by his wife Jeane, with whose voice he loved to harmonize.

Down below, thanks to our Aerodrome Editor and local musician, July McClure, you can hear Bud singing two solo pieces of country music . . . and one with his wife, Jeane,  July and Willy Jones.

Bud played a vital role in helping the FASF produce its first successful special event, when Dr. Roger Miller, USAF Deputy Historian, was especially flown out to Columbus from USAF Headquarters in Washington, DC, to make his highly successful 2010 presentation about the First Aero Squadron’s history making role in the Punitive Expedition.

After retiring from the FASF Board of Trustees, where he had served as an Officer, Bud continued to help the FASF, when he agreed to join the Board of Advisors, where he remained active until only a few years ago, as its Official FASF 1916 Airfield Director.

Here, below are a few shots over the past two years showing Bud and his local involvement in Columbus and FASF Sponsored events:

L to R above: Dev Olliver, FASF Photographer; Jeane and Bud Canfield (FASF Advisor); Retired UAL Capt., author and FASF reporter, Nancy Aldrich, Wayne Le Blanc; Leslie Bronken; Alma Villezcas; Jeff Smith, atty. and FASF Business supporter; and and Adelaide Bennett. This wasMay 2018 at FASF member, Ivonne Romero’s fabled Pink Store in Palomas, Mexico.

Jan 2019: John Read’s Retirement celebration at the Columbus Pancho Villa State Park (PVSP) 1916 Recreation Hall:  All are active FASFers! – – – The PVSP Friends’ Group Officers: July McClure (Treasurer), Elly and John Read, Maria Rangel (Secretary), Todd Montes (President – & US Postmaster for Columbus), Bud and Jeane Canfield, former PVSP Friends’ Group officers and organizers.

  Bud sings “Fox on the Run” with his wife, Jeane, July McClure and Willy Jones.

In these as yet unpublished photos below we see Bud serenading retirees in nearby Deming, New Mexico. https://firstaerosquadron.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/track-13-fox-on-the-run.mp3https://firstaerosquadron.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/solo-05-5-the-fugitive.mp3https://firstaerosquadron.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/track-12-scarlet-ribbons-1.mp3

FASF Members Take Part in New F-16 Viper Pilot Graduation

F-16 Viper Takes Off with its Afterburner

ALL PHOTOS IN THIS POST MAY BE SEEN* IN HI RESOLUTION BY SIMPLY CLICKING ON THEM

This Saturday, five active FASF members were again invited to join the base’s 49th Wing as it graduated the latest group of 11 new USAF Lockheed F-16 “Viper” fighter pilots, all members of the 8th Fighter Squadron’s Class 19-CBF.

Attending the evening’s celebratory dinner were Daedalian Flight 24’s Flight Captain, Colonel Mario Campos, it’s Adjutant, Colonel Bob Pitt,  Ric Lambart, Colonel Miles “Cowboy” Crowell, and AFROTC Cadet Major, Ammber Valverde, Daedalian Scholarship recipient and currently the youngest member of the FASF.  Ammber is a Junior at both the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) AFROTC Detachment 505.

A ‘Blue Team‘ F-16 from the 388th Wing, 421st Fighter Squadron, the “Black Widows“, flies high above the Nevada desert during a training exercise. Taking a break from the action below the clouds, this F-16 from Hill Air Force Base prepares to take on fuel from an awaiting KC-135 Tanker from the Washington State Air National Guard.

11 F-16 Viper student pilots graduated from the 8th Fighter Squadron’s F-16 Basic Course, during a ceremony at Club Holloman, Saturday, December 14th, 2019.

Graduating students, parents, wives, faculty and guest line up to enter the dining room for the graduation dinner.

The F-16 B-Course is a 37-week long course required for all student pilots. On average, B-Course students log 70 hours of flying time over 59 sorties in addition to roughly 245-hours of academic training and 69-hours of flight simulator training.

The dessert table had the class cake appropriately designated.

The 49th Wing is the Air Force’s premiere F-16 and MQ-9 Reaper aircrew training wing. Graduates of the F-16 B-course will be reassigned to operational flying units throughout the world as members of the combat Air Force.

L to R; Public Affairs Office Photographer, Staff Sgt.Christine Groening, listens to Col. Cowboy Crowell describe his tour in Vietnam conflict as Colonel Mario Campos listens. Both men are active FASF members.

Well into its middle age (it was 1st flown 45 years ago in 1974) the “Fighting Falcon” (it’s official original name, which has been almost thoroughly replaced by the more popular and honored name – The “Viper” – one assigned to it by its many pilots over all those years).  As seen immediately below, the Viper remains the chosen exhibition jet for the renown USAF Thunderbirds, which have used its extreme maneuverability in their airshows for 36 straight years.

The above video shows some typical operational F-16 Squadrons carrying out their  missions including some hi-resolution cockpit footage.

Colonel Bob Pitt and AFROTC Major, Ammber Valverde talking about her upcoming career in the USAF and of her intent to also become a fighter pilot. Both are active members of the FASF.

Here are the 11 proud members of the graduating Class19-CBF:

Capt. Justin Goar; 1st Lt. Seth Bolon; 1st Lt. Alexander Drakoulakis; 1st Lt. Austin Gillis: 1st Lt. Michael Kelvin; 1st Lt. Tyler Olson; 1st Lt. Colin Ruane; 1st Lt. Landon Santori; 1st Lt. David Schmitz; 1st Lt. Domenick Stumpo; and 1st Lt. Zachary Tarbox.

PAO Staff Sergeant Christine Groening and Colonel Bob Pitt. 

Originally designed and manufactured by General Dynamics Corporation and then licensed to for production  by Lockheed Martin Corporation, the newest model of the fighter was first put into action just four years ago.  It is the newest variant of  F-16 fighter jet, known as the F-16V “Viper.” The F-16’s cost the USAF about $38 million each – – – and it cost the USAF about $3 million to train each of these F-16 fighter pilots to master this nimble 4th generation fighter.

Lt. Col. Miles “Cowboy” Crowell and Cadet Major Ammber Valverde.

8th Squadron Commander, Lt. Colonel  “Harm” Finch, addresses the audience to help kick of the ceremonies.

PAO Staff Sergeant Christine Groening in action.

L to R: Col. Bob Pitt, LC Miles “Cowboy” Crowell, and Cadet Major Ammber Valverde

8th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-16 Flight Instructor, Capt. Brittany “Blitz” Trimble, who organized the entire event,  addresses the audience.

View of North part of Dining Hall at the Holloman Club, with (L to R) in foreground, Cols. Bob Pitt and Miles Crowell

View to the SW in Holloman Club’s Banquet Hall. In foreground (L to R) are Cols. Mario Campos, Bob Pitt and Miles Crowell.

Event’s Guest Speaker, Brig. General Joseph McFall, Asst. Deputy Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and Asst. Vice Commander, 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force.

Graduating Student, Capt. Justin “Hamboar” Goar, presents the class’ thank-you to Guest Speaker, General McFall.

L to R: Captain Justin “Hamboar” Goar, one of the graduating students,  presents Capt. Brittany Trimble, with a thank-you gift from the Squadron and its students for having masterminded and planned the entire graduation event – a complex program which unfolded without a hitch!

L to R: Captain Goar, of the 19-CBF graduating Class, presents THE BEST INSTRUCTOR AWARD to Major Locke.

FASF member and Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, Col. Mario Campos describes Daedalian History and the Flight’s Leadership Award.

L to R: Cols. Bob Pitt and Miles Crowell along with Cadet Major Ammber Valverde, watch the Daedalian Award presentation by Col. Campos.

Col. Campos congratulates Leadership Award Trophy winner, Lt. Colin “Huds” Ruane, who will be in his new active duty assignment at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea in a few weeks.

Veteran Viet Nam Fighter Pilot, FASF and Daedalian Flight 24 member, Col. “Cowboy” Crowell presents the coveted “River Rat” trophy to Lt. Austin “Weed” Gillis, who will report to his duty station at Ft. Worth Air Reserve Base in Texas after this graduation ceremony.  The “River Rat” award is bestowed upon the student with whom his fellow student fighter pilots would most want to have flying on their wing in combat. The river in the title is the “Red River” and the North Vietnamese Valley through which it flows.  The pilots who flew in that theater during Vietnam were affectionately called the “River Rats.”

The 49th Wing Commander, Colonel Joseph Campo (L) presents the Distinguished Student Graduate Trophy to Lt. Domenick “ROK” Stumpo, who will report to Osan Air Base, South Korea, in January 2020.

Again, Col. Campo (L)  presents the same “Distinguished Graduate” award to its dual winner, Lt. Seth “Faded” Bolon, who will be reporting to Kunsan Air Base in South Korea for his 1st post graduation duty assignment.

FASF members, (L TO R): Cols. Mario Campos, Bob Pitt, and “Cowboy” Crowell and Ammber Valverde, applaud the graduates as they received their diplomas.

L to R: Cols. Mario Campos, and Bob Pitt, Daedalian Awardee, Lt. “Huds” Ruane, Col. Miles Crowell and River Rat Awardee, Lt. “Weed” Gillis, and Ric Lambart.  Photo courtesy of PAO Staff Sergeant, Christine Groening

L to R: Ammber Valverde, Capt. Brittany Trimble and 49th Wing Commander, Col. Joseph Campo

L to R: Ammber Valverde, Capt. Brittany Trimble, Cols. Bob Pitt and Joseph Campo.

           Ammber Valverde (L) discussing USAF flight training program with Capt. Brittany “Blitz” Trimble.

  Ammber is a Junior at UTEP and with the NMSU AFROTC Detachment 505.  She wants also become a fighter pilot.

This was a good opportunity for Ammber to learn what’s ahead for her as she gets prepared for USAF active duty.

                       Ammber and Capt. Trimble continue to cover Ammber’s future prospects.

Colonel Campo and LC Crowell reliving some of their combat experiences.  Col. Crowell, an FASF member and a Flight 24 Daedalian, is now retired from active duty with the USAF, and works at Holloman as a private contractor.

                    Col. Campos (L) talking with a Master Sergeant assigned to the 8th Fighter Squadron.

Captain Brittany “Blitz” Trimble and Cadet Major Ammber Valverde pose by the 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron’s official Emblem.

The Viper is broadly used throughout the world by powers friendly to the United States, and still remains the preferred aircraft for the world famous USAF Demonstration Team, the “Thunderbirds.

The Oct. 16 flight in Fort Worth, Texas, marked the first time the venerable fourth-generation fighter flew with an advanced radar like those found on the fifth-generation fighters F-22 and F-35, according to a press release this week from Lockheed.

The F-16V includes an APG-83 active electronically scanned array scalable agile beam radar made by Northrop Grumman Corp. The company also makes so-called active electronically scanned array radars for the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The new radar steers beams electronically — without moving parts — and redirects them from one location to another, according to the Government Accountability Office. Unlike a passive version, the radar spreads signals over multiple radio frequencies, making them difficult to detect and jam, and allowing the aircraft employing the technology to remain stealthy.

The APG-83 “fire control radar provides 5th Generation air-to-air and air-to-ground radar capability,” Lockheed said in the release. It “will deliver a quantum leap in capability for the venerable F-16.”

The F-16V advanced avionics configuration also includes a new cockpit center pedestal display, a modernized mission computer and a high-capacity Ethernet data bus, according to Lockheed.

Yet the upgrades aren’t slated to hit the U.S. fleet of more than 1,000 F-16s. The Air Force last year canceled a plan to upgrade some 340 of the single-engine fighters with such enhancements due to budget limitations and instead decided to fund other programs, including the F-35.

So Taiwan is set to become the first country to begin flying the F-16V Viper.

Lockheed, the world’s largest defense contractor, faces competition from the British defense giant, BAE Systems Plc, in the international market to upgrade many of the 3,000 F-16s now flying in foreign armed forces.

Of those, roughly 1,000 are more than 15 years old — making them prime candidates for enhancements to avoid obsolescence. While the F-16 won’t ever compete in the skies with newer jets like the F-22 or F-35, upgrading fourth-generation aircraft is far cheaper than buying fifth-generation fighters.

* If you would like to have any of these photos, feel free to download them from the hi-res (larger size view), after you click on it as it appears in the actual post/story.

Long Time FASF Member, Col. Bob Pitt, Shares Vietnam Story

           Colonel Bob Pitt

Colonel, Bob Pitt (Left), of El Paso, TX, a former Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, and a long time FASF member, recounted his harrowing experience being wounded, while flying a USAF 101 ‘Voodoo” fighter  (below) over North Vietnam, to the monthly meeting of the group.

Bob was on a mission with a fellow pilot over North Vietnam, when his jet suddenly took a direct hit to one of its two engines from a Viet Cong 85 mm anti-aircraft battery.  He and his wing man had been flying down “on the deck” – and fast – to help avoid SAM (Surface to Air) missile sites.  But, just as they flew out over a large valley, the Vietcong opened up with small arms and anti-aircraft fire.

Some of the explosion’s shrapnel wounded him in his left shoulder.  Without warning, the future Air Force Colonel’s life was precariously hanging in the balance.  The date was exactly 54 years ago this coming Saturday, the 5th of October. It was 1969 at the height of the Viet Nam conflict.

                F-101 McDonnell Supersonic ‘Voodoo’

His fellow team member,  his Operations Officer, Major Tony Weissgarber, continued on to the target after getting the go-ahead from flight leader, Pitt.  In the meantime, Bob had several quick decisions to make:  Should he eject and bail out of his burning fighter right then and there, or try to limp back to the South to the nearest U.S. Air Base?  Could he even make it that far, since his fuel was leaking rapidly from one of his ruptured tanks?  At least he had managed to extinguish the fire from the bad engine.

He quickly decided to head back to the East in order to get out over the ocean, where he hoped the friendly U.S,. Navy was ubiquitously available to rescue a freshly downed flier – just in case.

                Colonel Mario Campos, Flight 24 Captain, Introduces the Lunch’s presenter, Col. Bob Pitt.

Bob Pitt reads from one of the publications that published the story about his harrowing encounter over North Vietnam in 1969.

If he crashed or had to eject over the jungles below, he’d at best have to register at the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he’d heard . . . “the accommodations were much less than satisfactory,” so the ocean it was.  He called for help from the nearest air tanker, but, since they were restricted from flying over North Vietnam, he didn’t have much hope of getting his much needed fuel from his too rapidly diminishing supply.

Luckily, he took no more hits as he wheeled about and headed out to sea.  Once over the water, he was surprised to see a KC-135 Aerial Refueling Tanker headed his way.

Meantime, he was constantly scanning the horizon for any incoming North Vietnamese Russian Migs, to which he’d be a sitting duck, since his Voodoo was already seriously crippled.

He was simply no longer able to defend himself from any air-to-air attackers.  He maneuvered the damaged jet to a close-up refueling position behind the Tanker, but could not raise he refueling probe to connect to the big Boeing tanker’s fuel boom.  He also discovered that his utility hydraulic system was one of the vital systems destroyed by the anti-aircraft strike.  That hydraulic system was needed to work the Voodoo’s refueling probe – and also other important mechanisms on board.

View of the McDonnell RF-101C cockpit that Pitt was flying on this harrowing mission

He banked towards to nearest Air Base, concerned that he’d wasted some of his vital fuel load maneuvering to get re-fueled by the tanker.  He managed to contact DaNang Air Base, whom he advised of his emergency status.

They cleared the field for him in to come on board.  He noticed his fuel indicator read “empty” as he lined up to land.  Bob came in with extra speed, not sure of how much his normal stall speed had been increased by the damage inflicted on the 101.  He touched down perfectly, deployed his Drogue Chute to help him slow down, but suddenly noticed that he had no steering, since the defunct utility hydraulic system also powered his nose-wheel steering.

A stiff cross-wind condition forced his nose to the left, and he helplessly careened off the runway, across the turf, and headed directly towards a base radar (‘GCA’) shack.  He yelled to the tower to have any personnel vacate his new “target” immediately.  The big crash threw him wildly about and stirred up a huge cloud of dust.  As the dust cleared he looked up to see one of the base firemen looking down at him in his silver helmeted fire suit.  “I’m OK,” reported Bob.  There’s no fuel left to burn!

Two days later, patched up from his wound, and ready to fly, he was quickly airborne on his next mission.  For this harrowing experience, Pitt was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), and for his wounds and damaged back (from the crash into the building), the Purple Heart.

Less than a year later, again flying the Voodoo, but this time out of Okinawa island, he lost both his engines shortly after take-off in a giant explosion.  Still low over the Pacific Ocean, he had no choice but to eject.  His chute opened almost simultaneously with his striking the water.  Two lost Voodoo jets, but not their hardy fighter pilot, Bob Pitt.

L to R: Colonels Bob Pitt and Mario Campos take questions after Pitt’s talk.

FASF Member, Lt. Col. Wendy Woodard, Briefs EP Daedalians

Colonel Woodard commands the AFROTC Detachment at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces, NM. This clip is of some of her briefing to the El Paso, TX Daedalian Flight 24 about the role of the Air Force ROTC towards helping build leaders for the U.S. Air Force.  She, as are all of the El Paso Flight Daedalians, is an active member of the FASF.  Two other active members were also Commanders of the same AFROTC Detachment at NMSU: Colonel Alan Fisher, and current Trustee, Colonel Ira Cline.  Col. Fisher is also a member of the El Paso Daedalian Flight 24.  Here is a short (3 Minute) video clip of some of Colonel Woodard’s Presentation:

Here, below, are some photographs taken at last week’s Daedalian event:

[Click on any of below photos to see it in full high resolution]

L to R: Col. Woodard, Roger Springstead and Mary Barnes chat before the meeting convened.

L to R: Virgil Hemphill engaged in “hangar talk” with Col. Woodard.

L to R: Dave Ginn & Larry Spradlin.

L to R: Colonel Bob Pitt describes upcoming Daedalian events while Virgil Hemphill and Col. Woodard listen.

       Colonel Woodard begins her briefing.

The Colonel makes another “thumbs-up” positive point.

L to R:  Waiter, Enrique, Mayre Sue Overstreet, Col. Bob and Julie Pitt, Virg HemphillCol. Woodard –  Col. & Judy Campos, Mary Barnes, Roger Springstead and Col. Alan Fisher.

L to R: Ric Lambart looks on as Colonel Woodard happily accepts her award from Flight Capt. Col. Mario Campos.

Lieutenant Colonel Wendy A. Woodard (L) assumed the duties of Commander, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 505, New Mexico State University (NMSU), in June 2018. Her duties include leading and overseeing all training activities and academic courses for all current cadets. Furthermore, she is the Department Head and Professor of Aerospace Studies for all AS400-level cadets.

Col. Woodard entered the Air Force in 1997 after earning her bachelor’s degrees in History and Humanities from the United States Air Force Academy.

After completing pilot training, Col. Woodard was a B-52H (see photo below) pilot at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

USAF B-52H Heavy Bomber turns on final approach to land.

KC-10A Tanker (DC 10) refueling F-16

KC-10 “Extender” (DC-10) Air to Air refueling flight of F-16s.

In 2001, she qualified in the KC-10A (above) and performed multiple deployments to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, and Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. During these deployments, she amassed 580 combat flight hours over Afghanistan.

Lt. Colonel Woodard was then assigned to the United States Air Force Academy as a T-10

Gliders help future Air Force leaders soar

A TG-10B glider lifts into the air at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. (USAF photo/David Armer)

sailplane instructor pilot (see above USAF photo). Between 2004 and 2012, she flew over 900 glider sorties, served as the Group Sailplane Site Chief, was a Standardization and Evaluation pilot at the Group level, and was selected to serve as a Deputy Group Air Officer Commanding for Cadet Group Two. In 2008, she transitioned into the Air Force Reserve and earned her master’s degree in Counseling and Leadership at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Beechcraft T-1A Jet

In 2012, the Colonel was assigned to Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, as the Chief of Protocol for the 3-star Commander, Air Force Reserve Command. She supported high-visibility visits from the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. In 2015, she was selected to serve as the Chief of Plans and Programs for a Flying Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, where she was also a T-1A (above) instructor pilot. In 2018, she returned to active duty to assume command of AFROTC Detachment 505.

FASF’s Initial Business Sponsor Has Flown into the Sunset

Long time local civic and business leader, Eddie Diaz, outside his Diaz Farms outlet in Deming, NM.

Our original business supporter and long time personal FASF Member, Eddie Diaz, of Deming, New Mexico, left on his final flight, Friday the 26th of July, this past week.

Eddie was born in Deming, NM, on December 18, 1958.  He graduated from Deming High School before taking over Diaz Farms, which he owned and operated until his untimely death last week.  Eddie was also and active civic leader, and served many terms as the Assistant Secretary-Treasurer on the Board of Directors of the large SW New Mexico and SE Arizona Columbus Electric public Utility.

Mr. Diaz is survived by his wife of  36 years, Guillermina, his son, Eddie, Jr. three daughters; Maggie Diaz-Romero, Cecilia and Cristina, four brothers, Javier (also a FASF Business Member), Armando, Samuel and Carlos; two sisters: Elia Holguin and Rosie Chancellor; two grandsons; Noah and Nickolas Romero; and his parents, Ruben and Antonia Diaz, also of Deming.

Eddie’s memorial service at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Deming was attended by several thousand friends and admirers, whose vehicles lined the streets in all directions, with standing room only in the church, which left many unable to even get inside to attend the service.

This extraordinarily large following bore testimony to his remarkable personality. Your webmaster had the honor and privilege of knowing Eddie for some 20 years and cannot remember a time when he didn’t see Eddie smiling and spreading his uplifting enthusiasm to one and all who knew or simply had the pleasure of meeting him.

It is genuinely difficult to even imagine that this vital and loving character has moved on, that he is no longer among us, except insofar as his energetic and upbeat spirit will never leave those who were blessed enough to have known him.

Eddie had a deep personal interest in his local environs and his roots in the rich history of the area, so he quickly took the first opportunity he found to help the FASF become better-established as an exponent of the exciting history it was organized to help perpetuate.  The minute he obtained his FASF Decal, he quickly and proudly had it mounted on his business’s front entry door where it remains to this day.

Col. Alan Fisher Recalls His USAF Career for Daedalian Flight

Colonel Alan Fisher speaking before the El Paso Daedalian Flight 24 about his life experiences.  Two other long time FASF members are to his right and left above – Charlie Overstreet, at far left, and Colonel Bob Pitt at the far right.

Long time FASF member, also a Daedalian, as well as a senior officer with the Civil Air Patrol’s (CAP’s) Las Cruces, NM Squadron, Alan Fisher addressed the local Daedalian Flight’s monthly meeting at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, Texas, (see photo above) this past week.

Colonel Fisher shared both his military experiences as well as retirement careers in civilian life with his fellow Daedalians. He also conveyed the manifold benefits of pursuing a career in one of the U.S. Military branches.

Alan, who spent 24 years on active duty with the USAF, is a honors graduate of the Air Force Academy, and served as a pilot throughout most of his career, taking part in several war theaters, primarily in the Mideast.  While still on active duty, this Air Force leader managed to gain a Master’s degree in Biology, which he was able to use while serving an assignment as an assistant professor at his old Alma Mater, the Air Force Academy.  Today, the Colonel is retired and lives in Las Cruces, NM with his wife, Melissa, who is also an Air Force Reserve Lt. Colonel, herself.  The Colonels has two children and two grandchildren.

When not flying CAP missions, Alan keeps busy running his family pecan growing business or teaching Science to local Las Cruces High School students.  Immediately before retiring from active duty with the USAF, the Colonel was the commander of the USAF ROTC unit at nearby New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces.  In an astounding turn of events, before his retirement, he actually awarded second Lieutenant’s bars to our long sitting Trustee and Vice President, Colonel Ira Cline, who himself recently retired as commander of the same NMSU ROTC unit.

Below is the Colonel’s retirement photo from the United States Air Force.

Official USAF Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Alan Fisher.

 

FASF Members Try Out New FASF T-Shirt Designs

FASF Trustee, Bill Wallace III, of Columbus and Casas Grandes, Mexico, and FASF member, Maria Rangel, of Deming, NM, show off our new T-Shirt designs at the Pancho Villa State Park Exhibition Hall in front of the First Aero Squadron Jenny display. Just click on any photo on our website to see the full-sized version.

FASF Trustee, Bill Wallace III, of Columbus and Casas Grandes, Mexico, and FASF member, Maria Rangel, of Deming, NM, show off our new T-Shirt designs at the Pancho Villa State Park Exhibition Hall in front of the First Aero Squadron Jenny display.  

FASF Trustee, Bill Wallace III and FASF member, Maria Rangel of Deming, NM, try out our new T-Shirt designs at the Pancho Villa State Park Exhibit Hall.  While Bill’s shirt was the right size, we were out of the correct size for Maria, so we made do with one a bit too large, but at least the photos show the new T-Shirt design well enough.  We’re already running low so have just re-ordered more of the shirts and with small sizes for women.

You can purchase the shirts by sending a check to the FASF at PO Box 1916; Columbus, NM 88029

Please state your desired size (S, M, L, XL, etc.) and color (choices are presently Blue or White). 

We are selling the new shirts for only $20 each, plus Shipping and Handling of $5 for a total cost of $25

ACTIVE FASF MEMBERS GET AN AUTOMATIC 10% DISCOUNT ON THE T-SHIRTS!*

Please send us your telephone number along with your check in case we have any questions about your order.  Order now in time for the Christmas Holidays!

Bill and Maria discussing the Jenny display and showing off the back of their shirt’s Jenny depiction.

Bill and Maria discussing the Jenny display and showing off the back of their shirt’s artistic Jenny depiction.

* FASF Members pay only $18 per T-Shirt plus $5 for Shipping and Handling.  [There is no sales tax charged, because the FASF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit institution.]

Photo Credits

Top photo was taken by your Aerodrome Staff and bottom taken by FASF member, John Read.