Tag Archives: Beale AFB CA

Member, John “Cabi” Cabigas, Pilots James May Into Space

“Cabi” Cabigas, USAF

Long-time FASF member, John “Cabi” Cabigas, (at Left) flew the famous BBC Commentator, James May, into Space in the First Aero’s Dragon Lady, and did it at the First Aero Squadron’s current location at Beale Air Force Base (BAFB) North of Sacramento, CA. Of course Cabi conducted that great space adventure while still on active duty with the USAF as one of the famed Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady Instructor Pilots.  Here is a short 30 minute summary of that memorable flight’s full documentary, which had, as its central figure, TV Journalist, James May,   Most of the full-length documentary was made by the BBC, but some was shot by the USAF.

Here, below, is another flight aboard the Dragon Lady, but without either Cabi or James May.  It is only :10 minutes long, but the resolution of the video is higher.  But if you’d like to see both Cabi and James May, you’ll only see them in the first video above.  In the meantime, Cabi advises that Amazon Prime has the full documentary in high resolution, should you be able to view that version:

If you click right here, you will get chance to witness Cabi again, as your webmaster interviews him, along with his fellow Dragon Lady Instructor Pilot, Bill Williams.  Both gentlemen were video-taped at the 100th Anniversary of the First Aero Squadron’s birth, held at Beale AFB, CA. 

Cabi lives nearby the Air Force base and keeps himself busy flying his own classic 1940 J3 Cub, which has a mighty 65HP engine to help it race aloft.  Your reporter soloed in one of them – sans brakes and tail wheel – back in 1944.  Since retiring from active duty in 2010, Cabi has remained an active member of his local chapter of the EAA and belongs to other aviation groups, as well.

When he graduated from San Jose State University in the AFROTC, he had also gained his FAA Certification as an A&P mechanic!  That in and of itself was quite an unusual accomplishment.

Major Cabigas’ USAF Pilot career spanned just shy of a quarter century, and involved 18 years of working with the Dragon Lady.   He holds a FAA Certified Flight instructor (CFI) Rating along with both a Commercial and Airline Transport Pilot License.  His activities with the EAA are largely motivated by his interest in sharing his love of aviation with the many Young Eagles who are lucky enough to get an airplane ride with this accomplished Air force Pilot, an American military aviator who was actually born in the Philippines!

The First Aero’s Still at Work – – – Doing What it Did in 1916

Which is, of course, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (SR). But, not out of its famous “Birthplace” airfield at Columbus, New Mexico.  No, now it’s continuing its SR work out of Beale Air Force Base (BAFB) about an hour’s drive North from the Capital of California, Sacramento.

In more modern times, the title of “Strategic” was substituted for “Surveillance” in the SR designation, but the mission basically remains unchanged, although the methods and equipment used by the FAS quickly show the immense changes science has made in how their SR mission is carried out.

While the FAS’s first combat airplane, the Curtiss Jenny, flew about 100 MPH at top speed, the U-2 flies at almost the speed of sound (Mach .7), and it also flies more than 7 times as high as could the Curtiss biplane of 1916 and 1917.

                      U-2 Dragon Lady in Flight

Today, at Beale, there are two aircraft used to carry out this vital security SR mission: the upgraded Lockheed U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane (at L), and the unmanned long-range drone, the Global Hawk (Below at R). On a daily basis, for a good twenty or more years, the FAS has been deploying its aircraft from Beale to the other side of the globe, especially to the Middleast.

                   Global Hawk Drone in Flight

Beale also remains the principal training base used by the FAS to ready its new pilots for both the manned U-2 and the ground-controlled Global Hawk.

Today we’ll look at some behind-the-scenes activities that few people understand are required in order to simply operate the U-2, which flies at altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet.  This high altitude is, of course, the reason its pilots must wear the same sort of protective personal gear as is worn by our astronauts.

Here, in the following 10:34 long video (after the photo of the SR-71 below) you will see how the U-2 even requires a “muscle car” chasing it down the landing strip just to help it safely return to earth, while a team of ground personnel is even required to help attach the “pogo” stick landing gear to the wings so that it can successfully taxi back to its hangar.  This video will also show how the pilots must have assistance “suiting up” before each flight, and how they must similarly be helped un-suit themselves at its end.

Don’t forget that the all-time record-speed-setting jet, the SR-71 Blackbird,  (Below) was additionally flown by the FAS.  The Blackbird was also stationed at BAFB before its retirement in 1966.

SR-71 Blackbird in Flight

The second, 8:22 long video, on the “Dragon Lady” was produced by your editor on a special visit to BAFB on the centennial of the FAS’s birth in 2013.  It is used again here since what it portrays is still unchanged from what one would witness were they to visit the base, today.

Hilarious Talk by AF Maj. Brian Shul (Ret.): “LA Speed Check”

Virg Hemphill

Thanks again to our Aviation News Scout, Virg Hemphill  (L), for this memorable video. This short 5:07 minute talk from the stage by former First Aero SR-71 Blackbird pilot, Brian Shul, entitled “LA Speed Check” is a real laugh generating piece of jet pilot “hangar talk” – – –  one that brings laughs from pilot audiences each and every time. While the talk is meant for a pilot audience, that fact doesn’t very much diminish the laughs generated each time the Major share’s his short story with non-pilots . . . Without further ado, let’s have his words bring some humorous guffaws back into being.

Maj. Brian Shul stands in front of his SR-71 Blackbird in his regular space suit.  Shul was an  injured  POW in Vietnam.

One of our Advisors was also a famous Blackbird pilot, as well as a Commander of the First Aero Squadron: General Patrick J. Halloran.