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Only a few of them, but our female fighter pilots are leaders

314th Fighter Squadron’s Patch

It just happened, once again, now twice in a row.

A little over a week ago the 314th Fighter Squadron (L) at Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB) near Alamogordo, NM, celebrated their latest class of graduates from the F-16 Viper Fighter Pilot program: Class 22-ABH.

As usual, the El Paso-based Flight 24 of the Daedalians was on hand to present their much-coveted Leadership Award to the graduate who demonstrated the finest qualities of leadership among the graduating class’ student pilots.

Luckily, your webmaster was the official presenter at the gala dinner event, and was again pleasantly surprised to discover that the winner in this latest class was – once again – – – a female fighter pilot: Captain Melaine “FIRST” Valentin.  She clearly lived up to her official fighter pilot call sign (or “handle” as the pilots prefer), “First!”

Let’s first start off with the official 22-ABH Class video, produced by class member, Lt. Frank “MinMin” Hippler:  (suggest you use the lower right corner button to view the video full screen)

The following photos show the celebratory occasion along with the above class video, and a short clip (of fewer than two minutes in length), which shows the Class Leader, Captain Valentin,  acting as the MC for the awarding of commendatory citations to the Squadron’s support staff.  (To view any of the below photos in hi-res or HD quality, simply click on them.)

L to R: Mrs. Emily Sanford & Squadron CO, Lt. Col. Kirby Sanford, Daedalians Cols. Alan Fisher, and Mario Campos

L to R: Mrs. Sarah Rich & husband, Chaplain Nicholas Rich chatting with Daedalian Colonel Mario Campos.

Another photo of the Riches with Colonel Campos

L to R: Daedalian Flight Captain, Colonel Alan Fisher talking to Major James Hill

L to R: Colonels Campos and Fisher share photos with Major Hill

L to R: Colonel Fisher and Daedalian-FASF Webmaster, Ric Lambart in front of the 314th Squadron Emblem

More Squadron members in discussions with Colonels Fisher and Campos

Time for dinner . . . Colonel Mario Campos at far right above.

Short (1:38) video clip (above) of the graduation event.

  Ric Lambart congratulates Captain Melaine ‘First’ Valentin, Class recipient of the Daedalian Leadership Trophy

A pleased Daedalian presenter, Lambart, and newly graduated top class Leader, “First” Valentin pose for one more . . .

Squadron Commander, Col. Kirby Sanford poses with Captain Melaine Valentin, to show her Graduation Certificate

L to R: Maj. Bradford ‘Nightmare’ Waldie at the podium and new graduates: Lieutenants Jesse ‘Donde’ Maese, Chase ‘MinMin’ Hippler, Abby ‘CYA’ Maio, Cody “RNOT’ Donald, Caleb ‘Ocho’ Mathes, Vince ‘Squid’ Sabin, Gerrod ‘MosseJaw’ Smith, Trent ‘PIT’ Meisel, Capt. Melaine ‘FIRST’ Valentin, and Lts. Ellis ‘Groot’ Alexander and Nathaniel ‘Peppy’ Welch.

Flight 24 Daedalians (L to R) Alan Fisher, Ric Lambart, and Mario Campos pose with Top Leadership winner, Melaine “FIRST” Valentin.

Top Class Leader: “FIRST”  – From Class Video

                                    Melaine ‘FIRST” atop an F-16 Viper (From “MinMin’s” class video).

                   Ric Lambart talks with Captain Melaine “FIRST” Valentin about her assignment in Korea.

All of the Class of 22-ABH – “FIRST” is in middle, on the Fuselage

Many thanks for helping with this post go to “MJ” Tucker, Unit Program Coordinator for the 314th FS, Cols. Alan Fisher and Mario Campos for taking some of the photos used, and to Lt. Chase “MinMin” Hippler for creating the exceptionally high-caliber 22-ABH class video, and for letting us use it here,  Well done.


B-21: Why Northrup-Grumman’s Announcement is Big Deal

The speculation and rumors will soon change because the big reveal is not too far distant.  This video from Sandbox News/Airpower with Alex Hollings tells the story.  The below video is 18:52 in length.

WWII and the B-17, The Rose of York – A Time to Remember

            Jerry Dixon

Last week’s news had ex-Marine Corps Pilot, FASF news scout, and long-time member, Jerry Dixon (L), on the prowl for some appropriate memories for our WWII Yanks and Queen Elizabeth II’s last flight into the sunset.  The video itself was created by “HISTORIC WINGS.

He found the following short (8 min) video commemorating the B-17, The Rose of York, christened with that name to honor the extremely gracious and hospitable young Princess Elizabeth of York, her very first Royal Title. Here, below, is that memory in video form. This first image of the video will play in a separate window, one hosted by YouTube, itself.  The second image will show the video right here on the FASF site.

                                Video in memory of the long reigning Queen of England, The Rose of York.

To see this film embedded right here, just click the following image.  We strongly recommend you open the screen view to full size in order to properly enjoy the experience: 

Here below are some more photos of the Royal event with the 306th Bomb Group’s Rose of York saga:                      Photo of Book Cover “Rose of York” written by Clarence Simonsen

A grainy but nice close-up of the Rose of York nose art with the Princess and her father, the King. Two things are evident here – the nose art was very professionally done and the Princess was a very beautiful young lady at 18 years.

This photo was taken from the base tower of the entire ceremony as it took place in front of the hangar.

And, here’s another interesting twist in a 78-year-old WWII story:  The return of the Rose of York in modern times. Rose of York lives on again:

Boeing KC-135R aerial refueling tanker at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, 9 September 2009.

The tanker recently was affixed with replica nose art to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the christening of the original Rose of York and the bravery and selfless service of all of her crew members, including her first Aircraft Commander and New Hampshire resident Joseph Couris.

In 1944 Joseph Couris was stationed at Thurleigh Royal Air Force Base near Bedford, England serving as a B-17 Aircraft Commander in the 306th Bombardment Group, 367th Bombardment Squadron of the U.S. Eighth Army Air Force. Tech. Sgt Stephens and Staff Sgt. Johnson of the NHANG, designed the new decal and all three unit members installed the nose art on the tanker. Photo: 157th Air Refueling Wing NHANG.

Close-up of new Rose of York’s artwork . . . not as complete and polished as the original. Photo by Fergal Goodman

The odds this could happen? Almost zilch, but it happened!

It was almost 40 years ago when the Williams AFB, Arizona Daedalian “Willie” Flight #82 began to give an award to each graduating class of new F-16 Fighter Pilots at Luke Air Force Base (LAFB) (near Phoenix) a highly and much cherished “Leadership”  trophy.

NOTE: Click on any photographs to see them in full (high) resolution on a separate page.

Above: F-16 Viper takes off for a mission.

The Training staff would vote for the student who displayed the greatest leadership qualities.  When that LAFB F-16 VIPER training program was transferred to Holloman AFB (HAFB) near Alamogordo, NM, the pleasant duty of presenting each class’s Daedalian Leadership Award fell upon the El Paso, Texas Daedalians’ Flight 24.

The below 3:12 minute long video gives a glimpse of the F-16 Viper training program, which began at Luke AFB, AZ, and is now carried on at Holloman.

All members of El Paso Flight 24 are long-time FASF members, which is why the FASF posts each of those HAFB Viper Graduation Ceremonies right here, whenever possible.

This post’s headline above refers to the two amazing coincidences that took place at each of the last two graduations at Holloman:  The most recent one was on August 20th, and before that, on May 21st of this year.

A few weeks ago the honored awardee of the Leadership prize was a new female fighter pilot, Captain Nicole L. “Clump” Palyok (Below) – – – Go to the end of the post to read Captain Palyok’s short biography.*

        Captain Nicole Palyok’s 311th Tactical Fighter Squadron graduation program photo . . . (much enlarged)

Flight 24 had awarded that same achievement trophy to its very first female fighter pilot over five (5) years ago; Lt. Claire “Harry” Bieber. The now Captain Bieber is only the second part of the event’s coincidences.  The most astounding component of the coincidences began with what actually took place last May when the top Leader graduate was Captain Mark “GEF3” Palyok. (Below)

                           Captain Mark Palyok’s 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron Graduation Program Photo

Were they brother and sister?  No, rather a husband and wife.  And, after their graduation, both will be stationed in Japan – – – and at the same location: Misawa Air Base.

Of course, the odds of this happening are beyond minuscule, but it did take place.  And your webmaster was privileged to witness this amazing coincidence unfold.

The other astounding small-world coincidence concerning these two female Fighter Pilots is that your Webmaster sat next to Lt. Colonel Jim Hayward and his wife during the 311th TFS graduation dinner just four weeks ago.

When I mentioned to Colonel Hayward that there was only one other female that had been selected as a graduating squadron’s top leader – – – and that that award had been presented by me five years ago.  The Colonel inquired about that female awardee’s name.

I said it was Claire Bieber.  

He was quite surprised. Not only did he know her, but he said, “She was my ‘wingman’ in Afghanistan!

The Colonel then went on to assert that she was the finest, a ‘wingman’ who was among the best pilots he’d experienced, one that he knew always “had his back”  . . . in short, “She was great!”

So, without further ado, let’s see the characters involved in these two coincidences (follow the link above to see all about Capt. Bieber).

Last May 21st was when Captain Mark Palyok was awarded the Daedalian Leadership Trophy by long-time FASF member and current Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, Colonel Alan Fisher:

                                Col. Alan Fisher congratulates Capt. Mark Palyok on his achievements

L to R: Col. Bob Pitt, Col. Alan Fisher, Capt. Mark Palyok, Ric Lambart, and Col. Miles “Cowboy” Crowell

          That evening, Col. Miles “Cowboy” Crowell, Daedalian, explained the Vietnam Era “River Rat” Award

                 Colonel Crowell congratulates Lt. David “Souper” Cooper, recipient of the River Rat Award

And now, let’s pick up the next Palyok event, Here, below, are the photos from that Graduation:

                    Colonel Fisher presents the Leadership Trophy to Captain Nicole “Clump” Palyok.

  Colonel Fisher explains the significance of the award from the Daedalians to the audience as Capt. Palyok listens.

The evening’s graduates stand on stage at the end of the ceremonies. L to R above are Capt. Timothy Crain, Lt. William Tatum, Capt. Palyok, Capt. Phill Warden, Guest Speaker Major (Ret.) T. O. Hanford, Lt. Isaiah Butcher, Lt. Eliot Shapleigh, Capt. Nicholas Reisch, Lt. Austin Good, Lt. Connor Davis, and Lt. David Louthan.

The Graduates removed their Dress Uniform jackets to reveal their traditional “Party Shirts” in readiness for the celebratory session. L to R above are Lt. William Tatum, Lt. Isaiah Butcher, Capt. Nicholas Reisch, Capt Phill Warden, and our star for the evening, Capt. Nicole Palyok.

    Ric Lambart, Col. Alan Fisher, Col. Mario Campos, Nicole Palyok, Colonels Bob Pitt, and “Cowboy” Crowell.

Chatting after the ceremonies are: L to R: Capt. Nicole Palyok, Colonels Bob Pitt and Mario Campos


During the award ceremonies, Col. “Cowboy” Crowell presented the “River Rat” award to Captain Timothy Crain.

Nicole grew up in an Air Force family moving around her entire life. Her grandpa flew cargo in Vietnam, her dad flew the F-15C fighter, and her brother is a B-1 pilot stationed at Ellsworth SD right now.

So Nicole has 3 generations of pilots in the family which is “pretty awesome.”

She went to college at the University of Virginia where she got a BS in Biology. Originally she was Pre-Med while doing AFROTC, but after giving flying a try for a few hours in a Cessna she decided to apply for a pilot slot.

Nicole was commissioned and moved to Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, TX for Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT). She stayed there after UPT as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) and taught students how to fly the T-38 for 3 years in the 87th Flying Training Squadron.

That is where she met her husband, Mark Palyok, who was also a T-38 FAIP at the time.  Her husband and Nicole moved to Holloman AFB last summer and both went through F-16 training at the same time, though he was two months ahead of his wife’s class. Mark is already out at Misawa AB, Japan, and she will be joining him there in October. They are “very excited to be flying the Viper and to have the opportunity to travel overseas too.”

Nicole remarked that it was “funny that we both ended up being selected for the (Leadership) award, It was quite an honor.” 



Thanks, first to “Military News,” here are three videos about the next generation of jet fighters currently in the works  . . .  first with NATO, and then we’ll explore what the USAF has in the works. This first video is 10:08 in length.

Second: This time thanks to “Military Tech,” is a look at our own 6th Generation enterprise. Length: 9:14  SUGGESTIONFor best quality, make sure to go to “full screen” on each video.

Third, thanks to “DAILY AVIATION,” we’ll see how an entire “generation” may actually be skipped! This last video is 11:17 long.

The American Family’s Vital Role Among Aviation Pioneers

As a youngster of about 6, your webmaster’s father arranged to have him taken up for his first airplane ride at Curtiss-Wright Field north of Chicago, Illinois (it was also a Naval Reserve Training Station).  That first airplane adventure hooked yours truly on becoming a pilot which I did, some 8 years later only a few miles from that old Curtiss Airport.  At that time, WWII was in full swing (1944) and the old Curtiss Airport was now a hyper-busy all-Navy Flight Training Station (NAS).

But, back in 1935, that first airplane ride was on the civilian side of Curtiss Airport, and in a Stinson Reliant owned by American Airlines and sometimes used to give the public their first flying experience.  This is a photo of that plane (an airplane built by the same family featured below):

American Airlines Stinson SR-9C “RELIANT”

And now, let’s explore an example of the vital role often played in early American aviation pioneering by the family of some of those intrepid pilots . . . both male and female.  This Stinson Family Video is only 11:50 long.  Suggest you watch this in full-expanded size on your screen:

The below short video is another feature video, 3:13 in length, about Katherine Stinson’s career:  You might enjoy this video more if you also watch it full-size. 

The Story of World’s Largest Aircraft Comes to a Violent End

As terror strikes Ukraine and its very survival as an independent nation rests in the balance, a steady flow of tragic news and suffering comes from this nation. The immense human suffering is certainly the worst news, but to those of us who love aviation and its history, the recent demise of the world’s largest airplane, the Ukrainian-built Antonov 225 is surely one of those pieces of tragic news, too.   The AN-225 was most affectionately known as Mriya, which in Ukrainian means “dream.”

Thanks to Henry Tenby of JetFlix TV, who made the following video of Mriya several years ago at an airshow, we can appreciate just how huge this behemoth truly was.  The ship, unfortunately, could not be quickly enough flown to safety because its engines had been removed for routine maintenance.  We have included several other good videos of this giant transport jet, an aircraft that had been designed to carry the USSR’s large booster rockets.

Another excellent and comprehensive history of this giant of the skies is found at AeroTimeHub.  The actual destruction of Mriya took place at the Hostomel Airport on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Loree Draude, Ex Navy Fighter Pilot, Talks With Ward Caroll

Lt. Commander Loree Draude

Loree Draude talks about her experiences as one of the first female pilots to be integrated into a carrier air wing.   She served in the US Navy for 10 years, from 1989 to 1999 and left active duty as a Lt. Commander. Loree was one of the first female aviators to make the West Coast deployment of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln.

On Oct. 25, 1994, the then Lt. Draude flew her S-3B Viking (see below) aboard the Lincoln to begin her first six-month deployment as a Navy pilot. It was an important day for another reason, too.

                                   USN Lockheed S-3B Viking Jet Fighter

That same day Lt. Kara Hultgreen, a female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot, was killed trying to land on the Lincoln.

Hultgreen’s death reignited a firestorm of controversy over whether women should be allowed to fly high-performance combat aircraft so Draude inherited both the underlying resentment high performance Naval jet fighters.

From her early days in flight training however, through to her assignment aboard the Lincoln, Draude experienced some institutional resistance to female pilots and some of the hostile atmosphere that obstructed the training and assignment of women to this highly specialized military combat role.

 Commander Ward Caroll

The following YouTube video is of former USN Tomcat RIO and Naval Academy graduate, Novelist, Editor, Commander Ward Caroll, interviewing at length (43:12 long video), Loree Draude.  We think you will find this interview by a fellow Naval retiree, an inciteful and highly fascinating experience.  You will come away with a better understanding of what our earliest female combat pilots had to endure in order to succeed.  Suggestion:  View this video FULL SCREEN.


Former Trustee, Ken W. Emery, Dies at 87 in Columbus Feb 9


              Kenneth W. Emery *

Ken William Emery was an early member of the FASF Board of Trustees and its official local Columbus, Historian.

The FASF has just learned that Ken died this past Wednesday, the 9th of February, at his Columbus, New Mexico home.  He was 87.

Before retiring, Ken was a Cultural Resource Research Archaeologist. His avocation was US History.

Accordingly, he almost naturally spent countless hours thoroughly researching the operations of the US Army’s First Aero Squadron (FAS) during its campaign out of Columbus – and of its 11 young pilots’ lives.

By the time he had completed his studies, it was if Ken had become one of their closest friends, insofar as he knew so much detail about each of their lives . . . both in and out of the Army Signal Corps’ Air Service.

After retiring from Archeology, Ken and his wife, Sheila, regularly spent their summers living full-time in the Arizona wilderness near the old mining town of Globe, where they spent each day of the fire season manning a fire watch-tower in the Tonto National Forest for the USDA’s Forest Service.  The couple had met while fellow undergraduate students at New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University.  They also lived and worked in Syracuse, NY.

Sheila’s mother, Marjorie Thompson, had been an early American aviation pioneer and was a professional flight instructor before and during WWII.  Sheila passed away in 2020.

Ken was always actively volunteering and helping in Columbus Village affairs and served on the Village Historic Preservation Commission.  In addition to contributing articles to the First Aero Squadron’s early newsletter, the AERODROME, Ken also wrote stories for the New Mexico Desert Exposure monthly publication.  Ken had completed all his post-graduate work in Archeology and only needed his oral exam to obtain his Ph.D. However, and typical of Ken, his love of the outdoors was so great, that instead of becoming a full-time academic, he chose to work for the US Forest Service.

The following is most of the surviving video (15 min) clip of Ken addressing the October 2014 Annual Convention of the League of WWI Aviation Historians at Monterrey, CA in which he described the exploits of the small handful of early US Army aviators that manned the indomitable Curtiss Jenny biplanes in a combat enterprise that lead directly to the development of the world’s greatest Airpower some 30 years later, during WWII.

Ken is survived by four grown children:  Peter Emery of Farmington, NM; Holly Emery of San Jose, CA; Sasha Duffy of Santa FE, NM; and Andrew “Drew” Emery of Roslyn, WA.  Ken and Sheila had 7 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

*Photo courtesy of long-time FASF member, FASF Photographer, Dave Clemmer.

The below video clip is 15 minutes long.  It shows Ken addressing the Annual Convention of the League of WWI Aviation Historians in Monterrey CA in 2009.


Importance of Philosophy & Logic in WWII Warplane Design

Doc Edwards Deming NM

The idea for this unique WWII story came from FASF Aviation News Scout, Doc Edwards, at left.

This story is about how a brilliant statistician and mathematician from Hungary, helped save countless American Fight Crews during WWII – all done from the comfort of his offices at Columbia University in Manhattan.

Abraham Wald (; Hungarian: Wald Ábrahám, Yiddish: אברהם וואַלד; (1902-10-31)31 October 1902 – (1950-12-13)13 December 1950) was a Hungarian/Hungarian Jewish mathematician who contributed to decision theory, geometry, and econometrics and founded the field of statistical sequential analysis. One of the more well-known statistical works of his during World War II was how to minimize the damage to bomber aircraft taking into account the military’s survivorship bias in his calculations.  That subjective bias was what was leading the military brass to the wrong conclusions about where to add armor to their warplanes, particularly to bombers.

Professor Abraham Wald, Ph.D. lecturing at Columbia University in New York City

Wald’s family home-schooled him until college. He graduated in mathematics from King Ferdinand I University in 1928 and next graduated from the University of Vienna with a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1931.

Wald’s mathematical capabilities were world-class, and he particularly excelled at turning abstract ideas into solid statistics.

Austria was not a good place to be for a foreigner in the 1930s, as the country was in economic and political turmoil. Despite his credentials, Wald struggled to find work in this environment, partly because he was foreign, and partly because he was Jewish.

Luckily for Wald, he was given a job by economist Oskar Morgenstern at the Austrian Institute for Economic Research. While he was here, he was invited to work at the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics in Colorado in the United States. At first, he wasn’t sure whether he should accept the invitation, but with the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938, Wald quickly made up his mind to head for the U.S.

He had only been in Colorado for a few months when he received yet another offer, this time for a professorship of statistics at Columbia University in New York. He accepted the offer, moved to New York City, and became part of the Statistical Research Group (SRG) at the university.

The SRG was a group of incredibly intelligent experts in statistics that was assembled to solve military-related problems during WWII. W. Allen Wallis, the SRG’s director, said the group was “the most extraordinary group of statisticians ever organized, taking into account both number and quality.”

The group was hugely respected, and the results of its work were taken seriously by the military, who loaded aircraft’s ammunition in an order recommended by the SRG, for example. Naturally, all of the group were exceptionally bright, but none more so than Wald, with his brain fine-tuned for the abstract.

Wald’s particular abilities would soon come in handy.

Survivorship bias

With the war claiming many U.S. aircraft, the military wanted to increase the armor protection of their bombers to increase their survivability, but they were unsure of the best places to put this armor and were frankly unqualified to find out themselves.

Illustration of hypothetical damage pattern on a WW2 bomber. (Photo Credit: Martin Grandjean [vector], McGeddon [picture], Cameron Moll [concept] CC BY-SA 4.0)

Where do you go with such a specific issue? The Statistical Research Group, of course!

The group was given the task of analyzing the damage received by Allied aircraft from enemy fire, and recommending the best way to increase their chances of survival. It was here that Wald made massive bounds in “survivorship bias.”

When bombers returned from missions, they’d often come home covered with bullet holes. However, these bullet holes were not evenly distributed around the aircraft but were actually concentrated on the wings and fuselage, almost twice as much as places like the engines.

Why were bullets concentrating on the fuselage and wings? Were German pilots trained to aim there? Were they firing futuristic homing bullets? Military officers came to the seemingly obvious conclusion that the armor should be added in these areas, as after all, they were taking the most fire, right?

Not quite. Wald quickly realized what was happening, and the solution was simple.

Bullets holes weren’t found on areas like the engines because aircraft that had been shot here didn’t come home! Wald believed bullets were actually hitting the aircraft equally all over, but because the ones hit in the most vulnerable areas didn’t come home, the data incorrectly suggested that these areas weren’t being hit at all.

The only aircraft that could be examined were those that came home — the survivors. The aircraft that were being brought down weren’t available for inspection, thus creating the survivorship bias.

The massive amount of damage on bombers’ fuselages and wings was actually evidence that these areas did not need reinforcing, as they were clearly able to take a large amount of punishment. Therefore, as Wald concluded, the armor should be placed on the areas that seemingly received the least damage.

The military listened to Abraham Wald’s advice and began increasing armor protection over these more vulnerable areas. Statistics on how many lives this saved during the war or since then are unavailable, but there are likely many people around today that wouldn’t be if Wald hadn’t made his contributions to the survivorship bias.  The following 9-minute video by TJ3 History does a good job of illustrating Dr. Walds work.