Tag Archives: Col. Mario Campos

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.” 

 

Daedalian-FASF Members Get Scoop From New WEAM CEO

Mike Epp, WEAM CEO

Mike Epp, at left, is the new Director of the War Eagles Air Museum (WEAM) at nearby Santa Teresa International Jet-Port.  When long-time FASF member Robert “Bob” Dockendorf retired last year we all wondered who would fill his large shoes as Director of the museum.  The mystery is now over: It is Mike Epp.  Mike was the guest presenter at last week’s monthly meeting of Daedalian Flight 24 in El Paso, Texas.

Still showing a less than average turnout as the result of the long shut-down from the pandemic, Mike still had a good sized Daedalian group assembled to witness his show, as the following photos reveal (click on any photo to see in full resolution):

L to R: Larry Spradlin and Mike Epp pose for our photographer as the Daedalians and guests arrive.

L to R above: Charlie and Mayre Sue Overstreet, Col. Bob Pitt (back to camera), Larry Spradlin, Julie Pitt. guest Mary Barnes, and Colonel Melissa Fisher.

L to R: Mike Epp in discussion with an old friend, Flight Treasurer, Virg Hemphill

L to R: Colonels Mario Campos, previous Flight Captain, and Melissa Fisher.

L to R: Jerry Dixon, Col. Mario Campos, Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill (his back) Mike Epp, Ulla Rice and Pete Brandon.  Flight Captain, Col. Alan Fisher is at podium getting ready to call the meeting to order.

L to R: Col. Fisher, Roger Springstead, Col. Fisher, Mary Barnes, Charlie Overstreet, Julie Pitt with Col. Pitt giving his Flight Adjutant’s report.

Colonel Alan Fisher asks Charlie Overstreet, a long-time Docent at the WEAM, to introduce Mike Epp.

                                Charlie Overstreet introducing the meeting’s speaker, Mike Epp.

                                                              Charlie describing Mike’s background.

Presenter Mike Epp starts his show.

            Mike proceeds to describe the WEAM and its plans for the future, with F-51 Fighter of WWII fame on screen.

L to R: Mike, Alan Fisher, Charlie Overstreet, Melissa Fisher, Mayre Sue Overstreet, Col. Bob and Julie Pitt, and Roger Springstead.

  L to R: Mike explains the antique car collection, also a feature of his WEAM as Fishers listen.

L to R: Mike Epp, Julie Pitt (back to camera) Melissa and Alan Fisher, Col. Bob Pitt, Charlie and Mayre Sue Overstreet.  On screen is one of the WEAM displays, a Cessna T-37 jet trainer.

 Mike describes some of the museum’s most unique aircraft, such as the Russian MIG fighter depicted on the screen.

Mike tells the audience of his career in aviation, and how it began at an early age.  After High School he joined the Army and served as an Avionics Technician in Germany.  After four years service in the Army, he used the GI Bill to earn his degree to become licensed as an Aircraft and Powerplant (A&P) specialist, a skill he used in his much loved General Aviation and in its Corporate Aviation world.  In 1989 he took a position with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as an A&P mechanic and as an Avionics Technician, where he was stationed in South America.  After five years in that capacity, he left the Agency to join the Border Patrol as an Officer in San Diego, CA.  After three years with the Border Patrol, he switched back to the DEA again, but his time as an Agent in his much beloved El Paso, Texas.  In 2014 he retired from the Agency and became a volunteer Docent at the WEAM, and ultimately, after seven years, its Director.

L to R: Flight Captain, Col. Fisher listens to questions asked of the Director by Charlie Overstreet as his wife, Mayre Sue listens.

The Daedalians and guests listen intently as Mike brings his presentation to a close.

A very pleased Mike Epp gratefully accepts Colonel Fisher’s Daedalian gift as token of appreciation for his time and effort.

After the successful and informative presentation, Mike and Col. Fisher pose for our Photographer.

 

Steve Watson Tells of Father’s Role as Liberator Pilot in WWII

L to R: Col. Norman Rice, Col. Alan Fisher and Mrs. Ulla Rice chat before lunch.

The most photographed and publicly acclaimed bomber used during WWII is without question, the B-17 Flying Fortress, but there was another less known, yet equally vital heavy bomber used during that global conflict, one which is too often disregarded, but which also played a critical part in the Allied Victory: the mighty LIBERATOR, the B-24, in its many variants.

 

At yesterday’s luncheon of the Daedalians at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, thanks to arrangements by Col. Alan Fisher, the flight’s members (all are FASF members!) learned of that LIberator’s exploits, and of Steve Watson’s (below right) father, Frank S. Watson, who was one of those select Army Air Force pilots chosen to fly that Liberator in the European Theater.

Steve Watson starts his presentation about the 467th Bomb Group and his father’s role.

Steve’s dad was one of the lucky aviators who came home safe and sound at the war’s end.  Frank flew the B-24 for the 467th Bombardment Group.  A short 7:00 video of film made about the 467th was shown to the Daedalians along with many personal photos of Steve’s father’s career from his earliest years through the war and then, back at home, when the hostilities ceased. Below you can watch a short 9:00 minute long film made of the 467th’s own “Witchcraft” Liberator


Remember, to see any photograph full size, simply click on it.

And for better viewing, don’t hesitate to open the videos to full-size, too.

L to R above: Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill and Jerry Dixon.

Prior to WWII, the main Ford corporation manufacturing factory at Willow Run, was a Ford owned farming operation, where young men learned to use Ford tractors to produce various crops on the 80 some acre area outside Detroit, Michigan.

Just prior to entering the war, the Army contracted with Ford to mass produce the B-24 heavy bombers on an unbelievable scale, finishing one every hour. This unbelievable production lasted throughout the conflict’s duration.  The mass production genius of the Ford Motor Car Company was surely one of the country’s major assets, one that clearly helped the Allies achieve their final victory.

When it was built, it became the largest such airplane manufacturing facility in the world.  Two basic operations took place inside its walls: 1) Manufacturing the airplane’s parts, and; 2) assembling the final product.  In addition to making the airplane, which was designed by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation of San Diego, CA., Ford also manufactured the large radial air-cooled engines that powered the ship.

Unlike its famous automobiles and trucks, which contained some 15,000 to 16,000 parts, each Liberator contained more than 1,225,000 parts!  As each craft was completed, it was then ground and flight tested right at Willow Run’s huge airfield, an airport facility with enough concrete in its runways and taxiways to make a highway over 125 miles long.  Each of the 4 Ford produced air-cooled and super-charged engines produced 1200 HP.  The normal crew consisted of ten men.  The ship carried 4 tons of bombs, and over five thousand rounds of machine gun ammunition to arm its defenses. At high altitude, the Liberator could cruise over 300 MPH and had a range of over 3,000 miles.

Below is a 7 min. wartime film made of the extraordinary mass-production the made the Liberators.

Unlike its sister heavy bomber, the Flying Fortress, the Liberator had a modern tricycle landing gear, which made it substantially easier to land and handle on the ground.  Another interesting fact about the Willow Run plant was that there were always over 100 bombers being assembled under the huge roof.  Under that vast roof, there were also some 42,000 assembly workers busily putting these then modern aircraft together.

Adjacent to the Willow Run plant, a large school was set up, and before the war’s end, over 50,000 students had been graduated with all the highly technical skills needed in the Willow Run Plant.  There was a teaching staff of more than 100 instructors to get that task successfully completed.

Additionally, a large warehouse was also built nearby, to store the vast array of components that went into each bomber, from sheet metal, bolts, rivets and stringers, to complex aircraft instruments and radio gear. Each airplane had more than 4,000 rivets holding on its lightweight aluminum outer skin.  By the war’s end, Willow Run had produced over 8,685 Liberators! 

Additionally, another 9,815 more B-24s were built elsewhere, for a grand total of 18,500 Liberators produced across the country for use during the war.

L to R above: Larry Spradlin, Cols. Bob Pitt and Flight Captain, Mario Campos, and Virg Hemphill.

L to R above: Cols Mario Campos and Alan Fisher, watch as Presenter, Steve Watson, spreads out his wide assortment of WWII souvenirs touting the 467th Emblem and other related logos.

L to R. Col. Norman Rice and his wife, Ulla, and guest, Dick Heath.

Colonel Mario Campos, Flight Captain, calls the meeting to order.

Colonel Campos introduces the Speaker, Steve Watson, for the day.

Steve Watson starts his presentation about the 467th Bomb Group and his father’s story as a B-24 Pilot in WWII.

Watch as Tom Taylor, a surviving B-24 pilot from WWII, gets back into the only still flying Liberator, to once again take control of the famous bomber off the South Carolina coast.

 

 

McGee Briefs Daedalians on New UTEP Aero Space Program

              Michael McGee, PhD

Dr. McGee (Left)  is a Senior Research Associate at the NASA Center for Aerospace Exploration and Technology Research at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

Retired from the U.S. Air Force, Dr. McGee served as an F-16 pilot, including multiple tours and Mission Commander experience. He was a Command Pilot, a Standards and Evaluation Pilot, and spent four years as an instructor pilot in the F-16 division of the Air Force Fighter Weapons School.  He is also a Daedalian.

At a recent Daedalian Society meeting at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, Dr. McGee, most recently with California’s famous RAND Corporation, helped bring the Daedalians up to speed on UTEP’s latest Aero-Space developments and future plans.

All the local Daedalians are former or current military aviators as well as FASF members.  Dr. McGee educated the Daedalian Flight about the new UTEP Program.

He observed that the recently retired former U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, PhD, is the new UTEP President, and is, as well, an instrument rated general aviation pilot in her own right.  Her father was a commercial pilot.  Ms. Wilson graduated with honors from the USAF Academy and served as a U.S. Congresswoman from New Mexico.  Her unique background with its focus on aviation might help explain why Dr. Wilson has such a deep personal interest in helping this innovative new space-oriented program become airborne.

To see any photos below in high resolution, simply click on them.  Once on your new browser tab, another click will enlarge them to full size.

Before the meeting began, members and guests socialized. Here, L to R are: Mario Campos, Mike McGee, Jerry Dixon, Mark Pfluger, Charlie Overstreet, and, seated, Schelmo Rocha,  assistant to Colonel Norman Rice

L to R Standing: Roger Springstead, Dr. McGee, Mario Campos, Jerry Dixon, Mark Pfluger, Charlie Overstreet, Josianna and Gerry Wingett – Seated: Mr. Rocha, Norman Rice and his daughter, Timbiya Rice

L to R: Charlie Overstreet and Col. Mario Campos

L to R: Dr. Mike McGee and Jerry Dixon.

L to R: Mark Pfluger, and Jerry Wingett

L to R: Col. Campos and Flight Chaplain, Roger Springstead get ready to start the meeting.

                                                    Colonel Campos opens the meeting.

                                                   Dr. McGee begins his presentation.

     Dr. McGee, explains the new air space challenges presented by the explosion in the numbers of drones in the U.S.

Dr. McGee points out the serious air safety challenges posed by the fact that Airline Departures at Airports are well published in advance, presenting serious security threats from ill-intentioned drone operators.

Dr. McGee describes the additional aviation security threat posed by the ability of large numbers of airborne drones to be “swarmed” – creating virtual “clouds” of them in the air space.

Presentation ended, Flight Capt. Col. Campos presents Dr. McGee with a gift in thanks for his educational program

L to R: Dr. McGee posed by the Daedalian Seal with Vice Flight Capt. Ric Lambart and Flt. Captain Colonel Campos.

Below is Dr. McGee’s entire presentation, provided here because of its widespread implications for public safety in the new drone age.  The video is 41:47 in length.

(This video of Mr. McGee’s presentation was removed on September 27, 2022, at his request.)

 

Rio Grande Aviation Council Holds its Quarterly Fall Meeting

President Wes Baker of the 555 Chapter of the EAA, at Las Cruces International Airport, arrives in his Vintage Cessna 140 for the meeting.

This past weekend, the RGAC (Rio Grande Aviation Council) held its Fall quarterly meeting at the WEAM (War Eagles Air Museum) at the Doña Ana County International Jetport in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

In the words of one of the RGAC’s original two founders, Bob Dockendorf,This newly formed organization is designed and purposed to improve and enhance communication between the many diverse groups that are involved in the regional  aviation community.

Thirteen (13) representatives of the some twenty odd member aviation industry concerned organizations attended.  The two group photos below show those representatives who were able to attend this past Saturday.

All this post’s photos can be seen in hi-resolution and full size by simply clicking on them!

The RGAC’s governing member organizations include the following:

  1. Amigo Air Sho
  2. Cielo Dorado HO Association
  3. Civil Air Patrol – Squadron 215 – El Paso
  4. Civil Air Patrol – Squadron 24 – Las Cruces
  5. Dust Devil Flying Club
  6. EAA Chapter 1570 – Santa Teresa, NM
  7. EAA Chapter 555 – Las Cruces, NM
  8. El Paso Aviation Association
  9. El Paso Remote Control Association
  10. First Aero Squadron Foundation
  11. Horizon City Remote Control Flyers
  12. Las Cruces Aviators Flying Club
  13. Mesilla Valley Model Airplane Club
  14. Ninety-Nines – El Paso Chapter
  15. Order of Daedalians – Flight 24 – El Paso
  16. Quiet Birdmen
  17. USAF Academy Association
  18. USAF JROTC, Las Cruces HS, NM
  19. USAF ROTC Det. 505, UTEP
  20. USAF ROTC Detachment 505 NMSU
  21. War Eagles Air Museum (WEAM)

L to R seated: Tania Privette, and WEAM Director and one of the RCAC founders, Bob Dockendorf, and EAA’s John Signorino work on meeting’s details.

Other profit-oriented or governmental organizations involved in local area aviation such as the Airfield Managers of KDNA (Dona Ana Jetport); LRU (Las Cruces International Airport); El Paso International Airport; Fabens Airport (Texas); The Commanders of Army Aviation’s Biggs Field and Holloman Air Force Base; Director of the UTEP Aero Apace Department; Managers of the Tenants at the New Mexico International Space Port and the Director of NMSU’s Physical Sciences Lab, along with the Elephant Butte Irrigation District . . . are engaged as members of the non-voting class of associate membership in the Council.

The actual governing of the Council is primarily determined by the non-profit educational aviation consumer oriented groups active in the region.

L to R front row: John Signoriino, Tania Privette, Ric Lambart – Back Row: Tracy Short, Aurora Navarro, Daniel  Barcena, Mike LeGendre, Col. Mario Campos, Wes Baker, Eric Gensheimer, Todd Pasont, Bob Dockendorf, and Juan Brito.

Below, the group of representatives also gathered by the “Women in Aviation Display inside the WEAM main hangar (see below photo).

L to R: Ric Lambart, Aurora Navarro, Daniel Barcena, Tracy Short, Tania Privette, Mike LeGendre, John Signorino, Col. Mario Campos, Eric Gensheimer, Todd Pasont, Juan Brito, Wes Baker, and Bob Dockendorf – we don’t know the helmeted manikin’s name.

 

 

 

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.

Lambart Briefs Daedalians on U.S.’s new Joint Strike Fighter

A F-35 Lightning II test aircraft undergoes a flight check. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

All below photos may be seen in higher resolution by simply clicking on them, and the videos all have sound and may be viewed at full screen, also.

The FASF’s Ric Lambart (at left) just briefed the El Paso, TX Daedalian Flight 24 on his 2018 visit to Edwards Air Force Base, CA Flight Test Center and about his introduction to the new Joint Strike Fighter, the Generation 5 new weapons system, the most costly ever purchased by the Pentagon. Here is a depiction of its relative costs:

  • The F-35 is not just the most expensive warplane ever, it’s the most expensive weapons program ever. But here is exactly how much a single F-35 costs.
  • A single Air Force F-35A costs a $148 million. One Marine Corps F-35B costs $251 million. A lone Navy F-35C costs a mind-boggling $337 million. Average the three models together, and a “generic” F-35 costs $178 million.
  • And, you might wonder how much it costs per hour of flight time:
  • $41,000 per hour.
  • The U.S. is the first nation to design, manufacture and fly a 5th Generation Jet Fighter.  The new F-35, the second “Gen Five” machine, will be operated by thirteen of our closest Allies. It was designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin, who coincidentally also made its WWII namesake, the P-38 Lightning.  It is produced in three (3) models, or “Variants,” as shown above.  Notwithstanding its official name, the Lightning II, many of its operational pilots have given it another nickname: The “PANTHER.”

L to R: Colonel Alan Fisher and USAF ROTC Cadet, Ammber Valverde of UTEP and NMSU, chat after the F-35 Power Point presentation. Both are FASF members.

The F-35A model, for the Air Force, the B model, for the Marines and the C Variant, for the USN.

 

 

The Marine Corps B Variant can actually take off vertically, just like a helicopter, and can also land vertically.  The below short (1:40) video show how this is done:

Here is another short (1:35) video of this USMC F-35B operating off a small WWII type special aircraft carrier, which has neither a catapult nor a slant deck as do all new generations of USN Aircraft carriers.  Those features simply are no longer needed for this new USMC F-35 Variant:

Unlike all previous fighters, the F-35 “Lightning II” (named after the high-speed prop-driven Lockheed P-38 Lightning of WWII fame) is unique, not only because of its advanced stealth features, but because it is a flying combat information center, with advanced electronics capabilities never before seen in a new fighter.

It can also fly at supersonic speed for over 170 miles without even engaging its afterburner, which is called flying at “Super Cruise.”  The F-35 was designed to work together with the only other 5th Generation fighter, the F-22 “Raptor.” The two ships will work as a team in various combat scenarios, should their help ever be needed.

While the F-22 Raptor is more maneuverable, the F-35 is designed to engage and take out enemy aircraft long before the enemy has even detected the presence of the new flying weapons system. It can carry a wide array of different missiles internally, rather than attached to its fuselage and/or wings.  This of course does a great deal to enhance its stealth capabilities.

The Lightning II is actually capable of shooting down enemy aircraft beyond the horizon.  The pilots of this futuristic weapons system can actually see in all directions; wherever they look: including directly behind and directly below the fighter.  It the pilot looks down between his or her knees, they can see right through the fuselage as though it were invisible.

A number of electronic “eyes” are built right into the ship’s fuselage, and what they “see” is projected right onto the inside of the pilot’s helmet visor – – – a first.  These futuristic helmets alone are some $400,000 each! Here is a short (1:28) video about this unique helmet:

Additionally, Inputs from both ground intel and airborne recon craft are all displayed on the F-35’s integrated glass panel touch screen display, again, unlike any of its 4th or 3rd Generation predecessors.

Much like the mysterious Area 51, the existence of which was never even recognized by the Air Force until relatively recently, Edwards Flight Test Center also presents a similar air of mystery, since access to it is so highly restricted.

While on active duty with the Air Force, this reporter often flew in the vicinity of Edwards, but was always kept at a substantial distance, because the air space around the Base was so highly restricted.  As a result, this recent visit to the facility was anticipated with no small amount of excitement.

The local Daedalian Flight 56, at Edwards, invited a number of fellow Daedalians from around the country to make this special visit, so that they might learn about the United State’s newest and most advanced airborne weapons system. The 461st Flight Test Squadron, under the command of Lt. Colonel Tucker “Cinco” Hamilton (at right), played official host to the visiting Daedalians. An AFROTC graduate, Col. Hamilton has flown 30 aircraft from a zeppelin to a MiG-15 to an A-10, and, and managed the entire $3 Billion Joint Strike Fighter Developmental Test program out of the Pentagon for all three services. Cinco started his Air Force career as an operational F-15C pilot.

 

LATE BREAKING USAF NEWS: An officer at Edwards Air Force Base in California last month became the first female test pilot to fly an F-35.  See below:

(L-R) Maj. Rachael Winiecki, the first female F-35 test pilot, and Airman 1st Class Heather Rice, her crew chief.

Maj. Rachael Winiecki, a developmental test pilot for Colonel Hamilton’s 461st Flight Test Squadron, flew her first test flight in the Air Force’s most advanced fighter jet this past Dec. 14, according to the USAF.

 

L to R: Colonel Mario Campos, Flight 24’s Commander, who operated the Power Point Show, and our top Aviation News Scout, Virgil Hemphill. Both are FASF members.

And below, is a final video (2:00 long) showing the F-35 in a number of different combat scenarios and roles as it completed its final test program:

Lambart also gave the history of how Edwards Air Force Base was named, as seen immediately below:

USAAF Captain Glen Edwards.

L to R: Ric Lambart and Laura Kelly, both Daedalians, pose in front of one of Edward’s test F-35’s . Kelly was an Army Helicopter Pilot.

An old archived photo showing some of the Base’s famous Pilots, including Chuck Yeager at the center, with his wife, Glennis, after whom he named his rocket ship.. Yeager was the fist man to break the sound barrier – all at Edwards.

“Pancho” Barnes, (center below) who owned the famous bar and resort, “The Happy Bottom Riding Club,” was one of America’s most famous female aviators in her own right.  Aside from being one of Hollywood’s best stunt pilots, she was actually the organizer of the Hollywood film industry’s first Stunt Pilot’s Union.  It was at the “Riding Club” that her good friend, Chuck Yeager managed to break some of his ribs just before becoming the first human being to break the mythically impossible Sound Barrier in the Rocket Research Ship, the X-1, which bore his beloved wife’s name, “Glamorous Glennis.”  Of course Yeager didn’t tell anyone about his broken ribs for fear of missing this extraordinary opportunity to make history.  This particular incident is an episode in 1983 smash hit movie about the early astronauts: “The Right Stuff.” Yeager is played by actor Sam Shepard.  Pancho’s Bar and Grill was the favorite hangout of all those heroic early aviators who daily risked life and limb test flying our country’s most advanced new aircraft.  The below photograph was for sale at Iconic Auctions, in 2017, at the first offer of $1,000.

L to R: Pioneer Female Pilots: Debie Stanford, Pancho Barnes and Amelia Earhart.

Immediately below, is the 2009 award-winning documentary film’s trailer about the Barnes’ Riding Club and the famed aviatrix herself. It is 2:03 long: