Old and Bold Pilots

Founder Story by Kip Cooper reprinted from The San Diego Union Newspaper, published Monday, January 29, 1979.


There are pilots who are old and there are pilots who are bold, but there are no pilots who are both old and bold.

This is the Navy way of saying careful pilots live to a ripe old age.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Carlton Palmer of San Carlos is living proof that there are exceptions to every rule.

Palmer was one of the pioneers in naval aviation, having made the first landing in a military-type plane on the Navy’s first aircraft carrier: the Langley, commissioned in March 1922 following its conversion from the collier Jupiter.

He has made dead-stick landings in treetops, cornfields, and tidal flats.

He flew off battleships before the days of catapults, after helping construct a 51-foot runway atop a gun turret.

Palmer, who will celebrate his 89th birthday Feb. 11, said in an interview that fewer than 10 of the early naval aviators of his era are still alive.

Still hale and hearty, with a firm handshake and a steady voice, Palmer has suffered a hearing loss as a result of open-cockpit dive-bombing.

He says his memory is fading, but he speaks with accuracy and affection of the old days of aviation.

Palmer became interested in flying while serving on the old auxiliary cruiser Dixie during the Mexican revolution.

“We were stationed about 10 miles from the mouth of the Tampico River to stop gunrunners trying to get arms to Pancho Villa,” Palmer recalled.

“No one on our ship had liberty and the water was covered with oil, so there was no fishing (a favorite pastime of sailors in that day).

“Then our ice machine broke down, our frozen meat and vegetables spoiled and we were down to eating our limited canned goods.”

“We got mail once a month. Then a Mexican schooner came by loaded with watermelons and we bought all of them and we lived on watermelons for a week.”

Palmer said about that time, the Navy was asking for aviation volunteers.

“So, I said to myself it would be fun to fly an airplane. And it couldn’t be any worse than this.”

Palmer was sent to Pensacola, Fla., for flight training, becoming naval aviator No. 116, although he had begun training months earlier than some aviators with lower numbers.

That happened, said Palmer, because the Yale University Class of 1916 wanted to get into aviation. That class was trained by the Royal Flying Corps in Canada in about a month, graduating before the aviators then training in Florida.

Palmer said he made 23 of the first 99 landings on the Langley, using training-type planes. In the winter of 1921, he made the first landing on the Langley.

“You may have a little trouble with the Navy on that,” Palmer said, “because they don’t want to admit that. But it’s true.” (The Navy lists the first landing as occurring in 1922.)

“We built the arresting gear on the Langley ourselves and we practiced landings on the Langley while it was anchored in Chesapeake Bay.

“We made the landings while the ship was anchored because there was an economy wave at the time and the Navy didn’t want to burn the oil to take the Langley out to sea.”

Palmer stayed on the Langley two years and then went aboard the Saratoga, which traveled through the then-new Panama Canal and came to San Diego.

There was a lot of opposition from senior officers in the Navy to the air arm in those days and battleships were the admirals’ favorite warship, Palmer recalled.

During one exercise about 400 miles off Hawaii in the pioneer days of naval aviation, Palmer said a non-aviation admiral insisted that the pilots speed up their takeoff intervals from 15 seconds to eight seconds.

“You can understand that when we got down to eight-second intervals each plane was taking off in the slipstream of the one ahead,” Palmer said.

He said a young pilot behind him was blown into the ocean by the slipstream from Palmer’s plane and drowned despite the efforts of another pilot who dived 60 feet from the deck of the ship into the water, swimming underwater after the rapidly sinking plane.

The second man in the two-seat VE-7 plane was rescued by the other pilot.

Palmer said that after World War I, “we brought back three British airplanes on the battleship Texas and long before the days of catapults we build a 51-foot platform over the No. 2 gun turret, the highest from the water.

“We flew off the platforms all winter under our own power and no one was injured.

“We had radios and we would spot for the battleships; but we couldn’t land on the Texas, so we landed on tidal flats in Cuba.

“We lived in an old Spanish battery that had no water, toilets, or electricity.”

Palmer said the plan was to land the planes on the mud flats, bring a motorboat from the Texas to shore and then have sailors lift the places into the boats, where they would be taken to the Texas and hoisted back aboard.

The first attempt to land on the mudflats was a disaster, Palmer recalls. His commanding officer, a Lt. Cmdr. Eddie McDonnell, was piloting the plane and Palmer was riding the back seat.

McDonnell hit the top of a tree and spun off into the brush about 6 feet high.

“We carried an axe in each plane in those days and McDonnell yelled for me to get an axe and chop him out of there.”

After they dragged the plane back to the mudflats, he said, McDonnell took off and hit the top of another tree. The plane nosedived into the ground, knocking McDonnell out and throwing Palmer about 50 feet through the air into the brush.

“I wasn’t hurt, but McDonnell was unconscious and bleeding. And the plane was a total wreck.”

After sailors cleared away much of the brush, planes landed on the flats without further incident.

Palmer said the Navy was lenient with its pilots after World War I, allowing them to use their airplanes to take sightseeing and hunting and fishing trips.

One Saturday, Palmer flew to an island in the James River of the Capt. John Smith – Pocahontas legend to fish, and was returning to his base in Virginia when his engine conked out.

He made a dead-stick landing in a cornfield. Just as the plane was coming to a halt, the engine started up again so he took off.

“That was a bad mistake because the engine quit again over a heavily wooded area and I had no alternative but to land.

“I hit the top of a great big tree. The plane spun around 180 degrees and then drifted down through the trees and hit the ground. The airplane was a complete wreck but I didn’t have a scratch.”

Palmer has been married 64 years to Marie Bailey, great-granddaughter of the man who owned Bailey’s Corner, then a 1,000-acre farmland and now the site of a huge apartment complex in Virginia near Washington, D.C., that bears his name.

Grandfather of the Preflight Checklist

Maj. Ployer P. Hill, Founder #891


On. Oct. 30, 1935, an experimental military aircraft taxied down the runway at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. The Boeing Model 299 — the most technologically sophisticated airplane of its time — took off with Maj. Ployer P. Hill as pilot. Hill was the Chief of the Flying Branch, Material Division, at Wright Field and the U.S. Army Air Corps’ top test pilot, having test flown nearly every Air Corps aircraft between 1918 and 1935. This was his first flight in the B-299.

The takeoff roll was uneventful, as was the takeoff. However, on ascending, the B-299 suddenly pitched up, stalled and crashed, then caught fire. Hill and Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot Leslie R. Tower, died due to injuries. The other three on board (Lt. Donald Leander Putt, co-pilot and Air Corps’ project pilot; C.W. Benton, company mechanic; and Henry Igo of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company) escaped. 1st Lt. Robert K. Giovannoli, a test pilot, saw the crash and immediately went to help. He made two trips into the burning wreck to rescue Hill and Tower.

The wreck shocked the aviation industry and prompted questions about the future of flight.

Investigators found the B-299 to be in perfect mechanical condition, and pilot error was ruled out of the question since it was such a routine takeoff. Eventually, it was determined that the crew forgot to check the wind-gust locks on the elevators and rudder on its preflight. These devices that control surfaces from moving when a plane is on the ground, were disengaged, making them uncontrollable in flight.

As a direct result of this deadly crash, a checklist to prevent such oversights in the future was created to ensure all flight control components are fully usable. This checklist was designed to be read so all items would be accounted for prior, during and after every flight. It was adopted by the Air Corps and airlines, essentially establishing the first safety management system in aviation history. Today, no one can take off or land without using the checklist.

More about Hill

Born in 1894 near Boston, Hill, a scholar-athlete, attended Brown University graduating in 1916 with high honors in engineering.
He enlisted in the Army’s Aviation Section in 1917, received commission and trained as a bomber pilot. However, the Great War ended before he made it to Europe.

Hill remained in uniform and became an expert in aerial photography, leading to him commanding air photo units in the U.S. and abroad. He worked his way to be a highly regarded test pilot. In 1932, Hill was named a full-time test pilot at Wright Field, Ohio. He went on to become a major and chief of the Flying Branch of Material Division.

After his death, the Ogden Air Depot in Utah would be renamed Hill Field in his honor. In 1948, it was renamed Hill Air Force Base.

War Story: Hero Medals for Mixer and I

by MAJ Robert Nelson, USA (Ret.), Daedalian Life Member #4970

Whenever Charlie (the VC – also known as Chuck, Charles, Gooks, Slopes or Dinks) mortared our airfield at Vinh Long, it was always at night, between the hours of midnight and 0200. They’ d set up a mortar tube, launch anywhere from four to twelve rounds and then break up and skedaddle out of the area before anyone could react.

To combat this little bit of skullduggery the Army came up with a counter-mortar radar that would detect the incoming rounds and through triangulation figure out where the rounds were coming from. The Vinh Long airfield operations center also kept an armed Cobra on patrol overhead from the hours of 2200  to 0400. Two aircraft, with crews, were on alert with the flying broken up between the two birds.

Our Apache troop pulled the alert duty every third day and was rotated among the members of the gun platoon. The other two nights were covered by the guns of B and C Troop. One particular night, I was tagged for alert duty along with a new guy as my front seat, Donn Wilimzic, later with the call sign “Mixer”, and another crew with their aircraft. We would report for duty around sundown to our own Apache operations center and then go out to the line and preflight our aircraft, move them to the alert pad, shut them down and have the aircraft “cocked” for instantaneous departure in case of attack.

This particular night was really hot and humid. No attacks had occurred for the last several weeks. Just before we were scheduled to crank the aircraft and take off to start flying our patrol, the second of the night, Mixer and I looked at each other and came to the same conclusion – leave our Chicken Plates on the ground – it was much cooler flying without them restricting the air flow around our bodies. That would haunt us later.

After taking off and establishing a circular pattern over the airfield at 2000 feet above the ground, I pulled out a device  I had made to attach to my helmet to simulate instrument conditions. I was going to get some practice flying on instruments, as we only had rudimentary instruments in the Cobra. If I ever got caught in weather, I wanted to be able to fly on instruments well enough to get me out of the instrument conditions and back to flying visually. Figured it could save my life someday. So, I put the hood on my helmet and told Mixer I was going on instruments and to look out for any traffic in the area.

I spent about thirty minutes flying around, practicing maintaining my altitude and heading by instrument reference. I listed for any radio traffic on the airfield, which would mean I had company in the air. Nada – it was a quiet night. I was directly over the airfield when I got an excited call over the airfield tower frequency.

It was the counter-mortar radar crew – “Incoming rounds from the southwest, bearing 220 degrees!” I ripped my instrument hood off, looked down at the airfield, saw the mortar rounds going off, looked in the direction I’d been given and, on a bend in a canal southwest of the airfield saw the telltale flash of a mortar tube launching a round.

I rolled in on the target, armed my weapons systems and fired several pairs of rockets, dead on target!! The counter-mortar crew yelled “On Target!” and I knew I had hit the bad guys. Feeling elated I broke my dive and turned the aircraft to recover my inertia and climb back up. As I broke from the gun-run I was down to 500 feet above the ground and really moving.

But, Charlie had changed his usual hit and run plan that night. Three anti-aircraft weapons had been set up just off the west end of our runway in a triangulated position to catch aircraft that would launch once the rounds started falling. They had not counted on me being able to hit the mortar tubes so quickly. But, on my break from my gun-run, I flew right over the west end of the airfield and they responded accordingly – all three of them.

Things went from quiet and dark to extremely bright and terrifying. I had never seen so many tracers coming by my aircraft – I was the only target and they were determined to knock me down. As I flew through the cone of fire coming up from those anti-aircraft positions, I glimpsed Mixer’s face in the mirror we had for visual contact between the back and front seat positions.

He keyed his microphone and asked, “Know what I wish I had?”

I responded with “Your Chicken Plate.”

They were sitting back on the ground, in the revetment where we had left them.

I climbed, turned, and came back down in a gun-run on the closest enemy firing position, which was a .51 caliber machine gun. I could tell the caliber because the tracer rounds were as big as basketballs. This night I had an aircraft with a Scout configuration – two miniguns on the inboard wing stations and two rocket pods on the outboard stations. I switched from rockets to my inboard weapons station – my two miniguns – and started putting out a stream of rounds at a rate of 4000 rounds per minute per minigun. I touched that enemy antiaircraft emplacement with a combined 8000 rounds per minute and they immediately stopped firing – because I tore the gun and the crew to pieces.

The other two were still trying to knock me down and I climbed up to engage the other two positions. All of a sudden, flares started popping around me, the counter mortar battery had fired off some flares to illuminate the area. They had gone off above me and were swinging down under their individual parachutes and illuminating the area.

I swung back up out of the dive, rolled left and lined up on the second VC gun position. He stopped firing as I was inbound but I hit him with another stream of rounds and closed him down for good also. As I climbed back up for a run at the third enemy position, those folks had seen what had happened to their compatriots and departed the area. The fight was over.

It had taken less time to happen than it took me to write about. It was over in minutes. Seemed like a lifetime when it happened.

I later talked to the other members of my troop. They said they were standing on top of the bunkers in the troop area cheering me on. They had a grandstand view of the action and couldn’t believe the amount of ground fire I was flying through and cheered and yelled whenever I would come in on my gun runs and let fly with my ordinance. Gentle Ben and the rest of the guys said it was awesome. But I didn’t sustain one hit on my aircraft. That amazed me!

My troop did an aerial sweep of the area at first light with the scouts, with me as the covering gunship. I insisted even though I could have turned it over to another gun lead. I wanted to know how I’d done. The scouts found the destroyed weapons and body parts and blood trails to attest to the effectiveness of the weapons I employed.  

That action earned me the first of the three Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) medals I was awarded.  It was the one I felt the most satisfaction over, but in reality, I was just doing my job. I also never flew without my chicken plate again.

Maj. Rob “Apache 40” Nelson on break during his tour

Unanticipated Connections: The Rivera Family and the Daedalian Network

by Lt. Gen. Nick Kehoe, USAF (Ret.), Previous National Commander

Emily and Melissa Rivera

During my recent trip to Kodiak, I had a neat experience showing how amazing the Daedalian network across the nation and world can be. After presenting the 2019 USCG Exceptional Aviator Award to LT Bowers, the pilot who had been looking after me had to fly. He asked three senior USCG Academy cadets assigned at Kodiak for their summer program to take me to the airport for my circuitous flight to Sitka for the 2020 Exceptional Aviator presentation the next morning. 

After giving me a “tour” of Kodiak (took about one minute), we had a little extra time, so I invited them to lunch. When we walked into a randomly picked restaurant, one of the cadets, Emily Rivera, saw her mother and grandmother sitting in the back having lunch. They were in Kodiak visiting her. 

Cadet Rivera went over to say hello. We sat at another table some distance away. When she came back, I was describing the Daedalians, who we are, our heritage, what we do, etc. Emily suddenly piped up with, “My mother won one of your awards in the early 2000s”. After she gave me a few more details, I looked it up on our website and sure enough her mother, Melissa Rivera, had won the 2002 USCG Exceptional Aviator Award. 

I had Emily take her phone over to show her mother, with the Exceptional Pilot/Aviator awards page pulled up so she could share how we memorialize our award winners. When Emily came back, I also learned that her mother a previous station commander at Kodiak, is still on active duty and has been selected for O-7 flag rank.  

While we were waiting for our food, I decided to go over and congratulate her on her promotion and for winning one of our awards in its early days. The first USCG award we presented was in 1999. I also commended the grandmother on having a daughter and granddaughter who undoubtedly made her very proud. 

I am always in awe of how dots sometimes get connected in faraway places when you least expect it.  

Early Encounters with the C-6: Bill Sievert Founder # 272

Amigos del Ciel:

The cover picture of a C-6 powered Curtiss Oriole on the September Daedalus Flyer was very nostalgic. (Incidentally, never before had I seen sleeve loops on a trench coat.) My first contact with this post WWI aircraft was at Rockewell Field, North Island, San Diego, California in the summer of 1919. (The U.S. Navy had made only minor encroachments on North Island at that time).

I was in the 2nd Observation Squadron (Gil Ervin, C.O.) and we were awaiting transport to the Philippines. One weekend my very high rank (?) drew O.D. duty. (No BOQ at ROckwell and a few of us lucky ones lived in the Hotel del Coronado Annex at a very special rate of one dollar a day. The quarters, heat and light allowance of a second looie just about toook care of the rent. There were also special rates in the dining room and grill so it was a case of turning over our monthly paychecks to the hotel cashier.)

About four o’clock on this particular Saturday afternoon, from in front of headquarters, I noticed an unfamiliar type of aircraft perform a landing pattern and then land. I met the aircraft in the OD’s side car as it taxied up to the hangar line and shut down the vertical and uncovered engine.

Very soon from the front cockpit there emerged a lady clad in full fox hunting attire (red coat, white breeches and riding boots). It was quickly determined that the lady was Mary Roberts Rinehart, the well known authoress, and the charter flight had just come from Chaplin (Syd) Field, Venice, California (located then between now LAX and SMO) for a weekend in Coronado. Transportation was requested to the Hotel Del but only the motorcycle sidecar was available. So Mrs. Rinehart got to the headquarters building that way and there phoned the hotel, not for a taxi, but a “limousine”.

Meanwhile the pilot stated he would RON so that meant taxiing the aircraft into the parking area. I “declined” the pleasure of propping the C-6 so we changed places and I taxied the Oriole in my first experience with a non-military aircraft.

In passing, might mention that after returnign from the Philippines I flew a Curtiss Seagull C-6 powered and with a battery operated self-starter! This was at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago, the summer & fall of 1921. All our Founder members will appreciate the “self-commencer” innovation after several years of hand “twirling” OX’s, Hissos and Liberties. The C-6 engine (Kirkham design) was the sire of the V1570 and D-12 engines we all know how smooth they were.

Finally, I might remark that the spooky stage plays of Mary Roberts Rinehart were quite an aid to romance. It seems that young ladies, after attending an evening performance of the play, were averse to being left alone.

Hope to see you all at the 1971 Convention if the Tucson Flight can wangle Air Force transportation. It couldn’t this year.

Vaya con Dios,

Bill Sievert ID 272

Jet Fighters for Thailand

by Col. John L. Wagner, USAF (Ret.)

Perhaps the idea to bring the Thai Air Force into the jet age came from someone in the American Embassy, the Thai Government, Far East Air Forces Headquarters, or the Pentagon. In any case, the overall concept of strengthening our allies and containing Soviet expansion via mutual assistance was a chapter right out of John Foster Dulles’ book, War or Peace.

After the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and the division of Vietnam at the 17th parallel, Secretary of State Dulles made a trip to Manila. The result was an attempt to establish ties and defenses among various southeast Asian countries and the United States. However, the strong words on paper about defending freedom, the treaty organization, and follow on SEATO Headquarters lacked substance until backed up with military hardware.

Undoubtedly, other U.S. Services had to divvy up their share to our new SEATO allies. But that is another story and young lieutenants in the 1950s weren’t allowed much of a peek at the “Big Picture”. Accordingly, my intent here is to cover only a portion of one relatively small activity, albeit one that started the Thai Air Force in tactical jet aviation thirty years ago.

The fellow who said it takes two years to implement any decision from Washington sure hit the nail on the head when it came to this project. This is not to denigrate the system, it merely recognizes the lead times needed to get people, jet trainers, supplies and support in place when the destination is literally at the end of a supply line ten thousand miles away.

Assuming the decision to furnish straight wing F-84s to Thailand was made in late 1954 or early 1955, it was 1956 before our outfit the 49th Fighter Bomber Group was brought into the act. At that time, one flight of the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron – Blacksheep – was placed on alert for a classified mission. Special instructions were issued regarding flight routes, airlift, tanker and rescue support, clothing for social events, protocol, etc. The rest of us in the group were envious to say the least.

Under the dynamic leadership of Col. Gil Pritchard and 5th Air Force Commander Roger Ramey every bomb commander in the group felt a tremendous sense of esprit being a part of a top priority special weapons outfit. The group’s four F-84 squadrons were stationed throughout the Japanese Islands from northern Honshu to Okinawa. Our mobility was assured by C-119 and C-124 airlift and KB-50 tankers.

Each pilot had a classified password which insured “head of the line” base supply and maintenance support to him and his aircraft anywhere in the theatre. Some of our squadron mates had just participated in setting a world record by flying non-stop from Japan to Australia. The group was on the leading edge of air force activity in the far east. Consequently, every one of us wanted a part of any new action.

The Thai goodwill visit (or show of force depending who was writing the copy) by the 8th FBS came off without serious hitch. The Blacksheep garnered many kudos and there were some interesting additions to the stories making the rounds of various clubs during the long winter nights at Misawa AB. One upshot of the visit was that the Thais were promised Thunderjets in the near future. They probably would have received them on schedule, if it weren’t for a few unusual turns in world events.

Low time F-84Es previously given the French were earmarked for delivery to the Thais. The aircraft were to be transported by sea from France to Japan, retrofitted and then flown to Thailand. The year 1956, however, had a couple of crises in Hungary and the Suez that impacted the sea shipment. The ship was delayed in canal passage. Since the aircraft were stored on deck and not cocooned for permanent or long-term storage the sun and sand played havoc with various aircraft systems. When the fighters finally reached Japan and were put it back in flying condition at Kisarasu AB in the Tokyo area in late fall 1956.

Volunteers to deliver those fighters to Thailand were easy to come by. The challenge was getting selected. Major John Saffel, the group project officer, came up with a novel idea. He’d lead the flight and each squadron could furnish a pilot. Perhaps being single and a squadron time hog with no big plans for Christmas holidays contributed to my luck. In any case, I was delighted when I was selected.

After catching a courier flight from Misawa AB to Yokota AB, I recall meeting the other participants at the Yokota Club. It was there I learned my aircraft, unlike the others in the flight, was not at Yokota but still at Kisarasu AB. This was a mere three-hour ground trip through Tokyo and around the bay.

We discussed configuration/model differences and flight planning details. Several things were worthy of note, such as cockpit switches, no inflight refueling door on the model, smooth wing tip tanks without probes, two underslung tanks as opposed to UHF, etc. The mission would involve three legs to Okinawa, the P.I., and Thailand. We’d need light winds and duckbutt (HU-16) support for the last leg.

For the first leg, rather than waste time with me flying back to Yokota AB, we’d rendezvous over Tokyo at 20,000 feet and press on to Kadena AB from there. The jet stream was strong and would slow us down on the first leg. Fully briefed, I ordered wheels and agreed to call John at base ops to coordinate take-off time after I completed preflight and signed off paperwork for the aircraft.

Everything went as planned for takeoff and rendezvous. By the time we went “feet wet” down around Kagoshima it was clear the winds were stronger than predicted and we had a long flight ahead of us. About halfway from Kyushu to Okinawa I received my first little thrill. We were cruising at about 33,000 feet in loose fingertip when the canopy on my aircraft snapped back along its rails to the full open position.

I experienced rapid decompression, loss of everything loose in the cockpit, and freezing cold all in an instant. The other members of the flight spotted what happened and quickly inquired about my status. After pushing my eyeballs back in, lowering my goggles (these were pre-visor days), and evaluating the situation, I told John that I assumed the canopy rail cockpit pressurization seal blew out.

This was not an unusual occurrence, but it was the first instance I knew of where the canopy also came open. I told John I planned to manually shut off air pressure coming into the cockpit area and attempt to close the canopy. It worked, and except for pressure breathing on oxygen the rest of the first leg was uneventful.

Our stop over at Kadena AB was brief. The canopy seal was replaced, and we were on schedule for the second leg. It started out normally until the element leader began to join up with John and called out he had a rough engine. His wingman moved in close and told him to pull up his speed brake; sure enough the problem disappeared.

This may sound trivial but the difference in flying an F-84E with two underslung tanks and slab speedbrake, and a 48th Group F-84G with its usual one underslung tank and perforated speedbrake was significant. This was especially true if the pilot was trying to analyze unusual noises and buffest with a slightly embalmed brain from the previous night at the club.

The second leg also convinced us that despite the fact none of the aircraft in the flight had over fifty hours total flying time, they were far from trouble free. My canopy continued to give trouble. Counting check flights after attempted repairs it came open in flight five times before it was fixed for good. Back in the 1950s, Navy jocks made a habit of flying around in certain jets with rail canopies open but I never did like it.

More seriously, all the aircraft seemed to have sniffle valve problems and a tendency to leak precious fuel at the most inappropriate times – like out in the middle of the ocean. “Marsh” Marshall had the most unusual problem with the main fuel tank under his seat.  Fuel shut off valves in the tank were obviously malfunctioning. The tank was expanding at times to the point it was actually causing his seat to move.

Once on the ground at Clark AB, we all agreed on the need to get these birds in top shape before we attempted the final leg. There was too much water, too few navigation aids, too much time and distance flying and too little timely weather information to include another unknown about aircraft reliability. As a result, we spent many unplanned days at Clark getting the aircraft fixed and flight checked to our satisfaction.

John decided to take Marsh’s aircraft because the tank expansion problem still existed. It was his project and he realized he was running out of time and ideas to get it completed. As it turned out, the gods smiled on him. The winds were fifteen knots on the tail instead of on the nose, the weather was pre-monsoon and good all the way and the duckbutt support on station was a big help.

When we landed at Don Muang International Airport, Thai and USAF people met us with a couple of tall cool ones that really hit the spot. As we left the flight line, I clearly recall Thai crew chiefs running with buckets to catch fuel leaking from their new hogs.

We joshed MAAG pilots Charlie House and Charlie Kapuscak all the way to Nick’s Hungarian #1. Those birds now belonged to the Thais and the USAF assistance team would have their work cut out for themselves keeping them in flying shape.

They obviously succeeded because the Royal Thai Air Force is still going strong in jets.

Fly-By-Wire, Old Style

by Lt.Col. Ted Fite, USAF (Ret.), Daedalian Life Member #4069

Some of my young friends who are F-16 jocks have been bragging about their state-of-the-art fly-by-wire side-stick controls, as if they’d invented a new way of flying. That’s like thinking they invented sex. T’aint so! Like sex, we just didn’t make so much noise about it in public. Take a look at the picture. Look vaguely familiar? It is just what it looks like – a fly-by-wire side-stick control. But we had two of them, one on each side of the cockpit! (The Airbus and YC-17 are just catching up).

Actually, the picture is from AAF Manual 50-13, “Pilot Training for the Flying Fortress,” revised 1 May 1945! It shows a formation stick, which was in the B-16G, (the Fortress with a chin turret, for you late-night TV buffs). My 1945 Class I-2-D met up with this gadget in the school at Hendricks Army Airfield, which later became Sebring Racetrack.

We’d gone up to Lockbourne AAF, Ohio in August after B-25 transition, and the war had folded up enroute. We had some war-weary airplanes, and I had an instructor who had also flown a combat tour in Mustangs. He claimed that if you could make a 30-second overhead in a P=-51, you should be able to make a 60-second pattern in a B-17. If! We never did, but it did amaze me how fast that big bird could be muscled around. I remember thinking “We’re going to cartwheel this bastard through the fence, and the C.O. will cream us.” Never a thought about merely getting killed.

I had all of five hours in the bird when we were all shipped down to Sebring to finish training. Before driving down with a friend, I flew down in one of the older airplanes as co-pilot with my instructor. That was quite a change from the vast experience required to even get close to the first models. (And the very first one crashed in 1935 with the elevator controls locked).

At Hendricks, we got some brand-new G’s and that C.O. let it be known that he’d hang us if we dinged one of his new beauties. The plane was lovely to look at, and lovely to fly. Today’s pilots would think they were in a wrestling match since we no boost except in auto pilot. Nevertheless, the B-17 was steady as a rock, one fine formation and instrument aircraft. We flew formation with ½ wingspan clearance. That leads to our first experiences with the formation stick.

We were just starting to feel like pros in formation when we were introduced to his new gizmo. It hooked up electrically with the C-1 auto pilot and from there to the auto pilot servos which connected to the control cables. The C-1 had both sensitivity and rate adjustments and allowed the bombardier to fly his run with the Norden bomb sight. We tried the formation stick out in a three-plane vee, which was a minor tactical error. I was in the left seat and had the auto pilot set up on fairly high control rate.  On the instructor’s word, I switched the stick control to Servo Boost, and mashed the transfer button. Hoo, boy! Sort of like going from an old Goony Bird to a T-38. There was no feel. We were left wing, and I was very happy that my first jink was to the left and up. When I got sight of the other two birds again, they’d spread out from “half wing” to “same way, same day,” and it looked like we were practicing flak evasion instead of formation. It took another hour to get some confidence with the stick. Back on the ground, the students agreed that we really could do without this state-of-the-art. Surprisingly, a couple of the instructors concurred, at least so long as they still had to ride with us. (Actually, the stick also had another purpose. It allegedly could get a Fort home with the rudder cables shot away and an engine out, but a stick approach was pretty hairy).

I graduated as first pilot in December 1945, with the grand total of 115 hours in the B-17, hundreds of hours less than the early Fortress pilots needed to get near the bird. Then off to Occupation Germany in March. Lo and behold, no more B-17s. We were blowing them up by the hundreds and giving them to the bewildered Germans for pots and pans. Me? My orders sent me to Furth-Nuremberg, assigned the 10th Recce Group, a classified photo outfit, (low level predecessor to the U-2), equipped with – Mustangs! (Marv Zipp, of Stinson’s Flight, was the C.O.)

But that’s another terrifying tale!

The author:
Red Ted Fite was a Former Flight 30 Flight Captain. He graduated with his pilot’s wings, with the 3-year West Point Class of 1945. His last flying assignment was with the 3rd Bomb Wing (Tactical), in the Far East, flying B-57s. He was one of our most colorful and dedicated members throughout his life, writing dozens of letters into HQ with advice, information and support on our work through the years, in addition to several articles for publication until his death in 2019. He truly lived up the tenets of the Daedalians and is deeply missed.

Hard Landing

by Col. Bill Sweeley, Founder #6566

Another unusual “incident” that happened to an old Daedalian these many years agone, forty-five years ago, in fact. The old members whole learned to fly in 1917 (or before – I started in 1916) will understand this rather unusual, forced landing.

I was acting as escort to the “Round The World Fliers” in Douglas-built cruisers. I was flying an old D.H.4 B., a Dehavilland biplane with a 400 H.P. Liberty engine. My “passenger” was a photographer from the Los Angeles Examiner. He had a rather large Graphlex camera mounted on a large tripod projecting from the turret of the rear seat.

The entire flight took off from Santa Monica March 16th, 1924, first stop was Sacramento, next day to Eugene, Oregon. The following day for Seattle where the Cruisers’ landing gears were to be changed to floats for the Trans-Pacific flight. Out of Eugene we were flying at about 8,000 feet over a large, forested area. I was slightly above the Cruisers who were off to my right.

I noticed the oil pressure gauge registered zero!!! An oil line had broken. I turned around and told the photographer to bail out – JUMP. He refused, I released my belt, turned around and tried to get hold of him – he fought me off. I tried to tear off the damn large tripod that held his camera. I failed. (By the by, this was the first time I had ever worn a parachute – or anyone else in the Army Air Service at that time. Parachutes came into being in March 1924).  

Mountains and dense forest; from my latitude the latter looked like a lawn. I noticed two trees tollers than others in the immediate vicinity. They were very close together. I had long since cut the switches. I glided the plane between these two trees, hoping the wings would be shorn off. They were. The fuselage bounced from limb to limb until the last limbs that were forty feet above ground. From there it was a free fall and disaster. We hit partially nose down; the engine tore loose and came back into me. I eventually crawled free from the wreck.

I was seriously injured and spent months in Letterman Army Hospital, Presidio, San Francisco. My right eye was partially out of its socket and hanging on my cheek. (The photographer received a broken ankle.) Two local hunters in a one-horse buck board saw the descent and heard the crash. They were my saviors indeed!

They took us to the small town of Peel, Oregon, not far from Medford. The local doctor of this village did the best he could, bless his heart. The crack Southern Pacific’s Shasta Limited was hailed down by building a small fire in the center of the tracks. I was placed in a drawing room. The doctor, again, bless his heart, accompanied me as far as Eugene where a doctor and nurse stayed with me until arrival in San Francisco when an ambulance took over.

Such a forced landing never took place before, and one similar to it will in all probability never take place again. Then, landing fields were many miles apart. Frequently, hundreds of miles, and of course, no radio. I was damned lucky to have survived. The scars, the limp, and the memories will always remain.

77th Flight Honors a Centenarian

Maj. Larry Sabourin, USAF (Ret.), Daedalian Life Member #5519 and 77th Flight Adjutant

May birthdays, left to right: Larry Sabourin, Tom Webb, Jim Kendrick – 102, Tom Hinkel, Ev Hatch. 

On 20 May Flight 77, (Elliott White Springs -Myrtle Beach) held its monthly meeting at Brightwaters Adult Residence to celebrate the 102nd birthday of our centenarian Lt.Col. Jim Kendrick, USAF (Ret.), Daedalian Life Member #8500.  Jim is in good health, walks on his own with a walker and stays up to speed on the stock market.  He is a 1940 Citadel Graduate and a B-17 WWII pilot. In addition to being a Daedalian, he is also a Rotarian and Board of Director Emeritus of the Coastal Carolina Federal Credit Union.  

Myrtle Beach City Council made a proclamation, as shared by Rotary District 7770, on May 17, 2021 with Lt. Col. Kendrick in attendance:

“NOW, THEREFORE, be it proclaimed that the City of Myrtle Beach hereby designates the week of May 17-23, 2021, as James B. Kendrick Week in honor and recognition of his milestone 102nd birthday on May 17, …, and extends best wishes and birthday greetings to our long-time friend and neighbor on this momentous occasion, ….”

May was a birthday month, as five other members also celebrated their birthdays.     

A pleasant congenial evening was had by all, hosted by the Brightwaters staff.  The flight voted to pay for the Flight Commander’s airfare to the National Convention to receive the Flight’s Award.  

Covid protocol was heeded.  All attending had received their shots.  Upon check-in at Brightwaters all were temperature checked, signed a medical form, and wore masks until the banquet room.  

23rd Flight Supports Students Taking the Oath

23rd Flight Daedalian Brigadier General William H. “Bill” Lawson recently officiated at Joshua High School’s Annual Military Signing Ceremony.  At the request of LTC Jim Davidson, General Lawson spoke on the meaning of the U.S. Military Oath of Enlistment. He then administered the oath to thirteen graduating seniors during ceremonies at the Owls’ (Joshua) football stadium. The entire school student body was present in the stadium to observe the ceremony and congratulate the graduates. 

23rd Flight has established a special relationship with Joshua High School Navy Junior ROTC (NJROTC) and Joshua’s Senior Naval Instructors LTC Jim Davidson, USMC (Ret), and Master Chief Petty Officer Charles Linville, USN. 

The concept of the Military Signing Ceremony, as established by LTC Davidson, is quite simple:   As schools celebrate athletes signing to play sports for a college/university, we have established a celebration for young patriots who are willing to raise their right hand to join the Armed Forces of the United States and to protect our nation and our freedoms. 

Before the ceremony began, General Lawson took advantage of some informal time to hold a pep talk with the graduates who would take the oath and sign their enlistment papers on this day. During the formal ceremony, General Lawson discussed the various levels of military grade structure before focusing on the true meaning of the key words and phrases in the U.S. Military Oath of Enlistment; it was nicely and concisely presented, and easy to understand. 

The service recruiters for each of the enlistees taking the oath including five Army, two National Guard, one Navy, four Marine, and one Air Force, were on hand to observe and validate signing of the enlistment papers. 

Joining this group of enlistees were several Joshua High School seniors who are receiving ROTC scholarships to serve as military commissioned officers: Paul Boterf to the University of North Texas, Jake Broadway to Tarleton State University, Johan Hernandez to Virginia Military Institute, and Josh Groessel and Grant Lewis to Texas A&M University.