“Did Cheeta17 Land in the Overrun?”

I had a young IP who worked for me and was about to head off to the airlines. Before he left he had one last Instrument Check (ride) to fly. As it turned out he was assigned to fly with this ‘zipper-headed, no-brain’ from Stan/Eval (Standardization and Evaluation). I didn’t think much about it as Tom was one of my better instructor pilots.

I was the SOF (Supervisor of Flying) when Tom came down to sign in from his flight and out of curiosity I asked him how it went. He replied, “Not too well Boss. I think I stuck one (landing) in the overrun.” Crap! It happens, but not often.

So I called out to the’ Little House on the Prairie,’ the RSU (Runway Supervisory Unit), and asked if they had any comments on ‘Cheeta 17.’

“Yeah Boss,” the Controller said, “he put one in the overrun.”

“By very much?” I asked.

“Nah,” came the reply, “maybe 10 or 15 feet.” Crap, it happens.

So then I told him, “Okay, there will be a case of beer in your car when you get in if you add 25 feet to his touchdown.”

“You got it Boss, Bud Light!” came his reply!

No sooner than I hung up, the flight examiner came in, went over to a secondary phone we had to the RSU, and called the Controller. I doubt if even 30 seconds had passed. I overheard him ask if they had touched down in the overrun, to which the Controller told him ‘it was close,’ but on the runway.

When he hung up and was about to walk away I asked him if there was a problem. He told me he had a question about a landing. I then “rolled in on him;” telling him that I didn’t mind if he used the phone, but it usually was common courtesy to ask for permission first. He recognized right away that he had indeed breached protocol, apologized, and I sent him on his way. As soon as I got off SOF duty I headed over to buy a case of Bud Light…

For many years I never said anything about the incident until I ran into Tom at the airlines. Then we had a nice chuckle about it all, and a Bud Light!

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Dad’s Marbles

Years ago Dear Ole Dad gave me some old clay marbles. I keep them in an old milk bottle from our hometown, Whitehouse, OH. The bottle comes from the Longenecker Dairy.

Turns out he made them as a kid. Dad was born in 1916 so perhaps these marbles were made 100 years ago now (2023?). At any rate, they are not uniform in size or symmetrical. Must have made for some interesting matches!

I can only imagine the fun the kids had in those days when they had to really “knuckle down” to play!

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The Crash

The date was 27 September 1964 and the bird was 62-4318.  Plain and simple, this was a pilot-error crash, I took a perfectly good F-105 and bashed it into the trees. But it was a tough bird that the Maintenance Magicians fixed, it survived the war, and this great machine now sits on a pedestal in Centralia, Illinois.

These were strange times for many of us in the three F-105 squadrons.  We had 24 Fully Mission Capable (FMC) birds on alert in Korea. And, I think, 24 FMC birds in Thailand. These deployments left very few flyable birds on the home station, Yokota AB, Japan. In the weeks before the crash, I was at the home station and was getting very little flying time. My Form 5 shows three landings in the month before the crash.

On 25 September 1964 it was time to head south to Korat AB, Thailand.  I boarded a C-130 for a hop to Kadena AB, Okinawa and then a hop to Korat. The C-130 landed at Kadena broken so we had to stay overnight and did not get out until the afternoon of 26 September 64. We landed at Korat late in the afternoon where I was assigned a cot in the tent next to the “Officer’s Club Tent”. I was also told I was on the first flight the next morning.

I didn’t sleep much that night and awoke at, I think, about 0400 and it was still dark. Rich Graham was the flight leader for the four ship flight. Lee White was Number 2, Charlie Hanson was Number 3, and I was Number 4. Rich briefed that it would be a local flight and that we were going to practice a new maneuver that was being developed at Nellis AFB, Nevada. It was called a “Popup” and involved a low level, high speed run to a point offset from the target where you pulled up into a steep climb and then a roll over the top into a dive run. As I later discovered, the “offset” needed to be a fairly long distance from the target due to the turn radius of the F-105.

When we took off it was daylight and we flew around for a bit, until the wing tanks were dry.  Rich called out a “target” and had us set up for the attack. I don’t remember how many runs we made before the crash as I remember at least one good pass but I do remember the last pass. I pulled up hard and was tight in the turn over the top inverted. As I rolled out for the dive I knew I was steep and slow. I kept on the power and pulled to the buffet but the “Gs” were low and the bird was sinking. It hit hard, nose up, but it hit with a flying wing and was not stalled.

The bird blew threw the trees and came out with enormous vibration and a hard-left rolling moment.  It took full right stick and full right rudder to control the roll. I thought I would have to eject so I was reaching for altitude. I could see the tanks were rolled up and over the wings so I punched them off and that helped the vibration a bit. I didn’t notice at the time that the leading edge flaps were gone.

I still had the hard left rolling moment but that eased a bit after I got some altitude and started slowing down.  I seem to remember climbing to 10,000 feet but I am not sure about that. All of the systems in the bird seemed to be functioning so I slowed below 250-knots and dropped the gear which came down and locked normally.

I called Korat Approach Control, told them I had a damaged bird, and needed a long straight-in approach. They responded that they had an 800-foot overcast with good visibility underneath.  I came through the overcast at over 200-knots as I felt I needed the speed for control and was lined up with the arming area. There were two birds in the arming area and one of them was powering up and blowing dirt to get out of the way. I moved to the right and spiked it on the runway at about 200-knots, well above the drag chute limit. I dropped the nose and went full on the brakes. It didn’t seem as if I was getting anything from the brakes as the anti-skid had to be cycling and I had to wait to 170-knots for the chute. The chute came out and held and the bird started slowing. I got it stopped and taxied in. It is a good thing I did not need the tail hook as I left it at the crash site.

The walk around of the bird showed the leading edge flaps were gone.  The bomb bay doors had been pushed up and burst the bomb bay tank. Most of the ribs from the bomb bay back were broken. The ventral fin and the tail hook were gone. The left stabilizer had been sheared from the cross over tube and was cranked into the side of the fuselage which accounted for the left rolling moment; the left stabilizer was jammed in an up position so the right stabilizer was doing all of the pitch control.

The bird was lifted to the IRAN (Inspect and Repair As Necessary) facility at Tainan, Taiwan in pieces where it was repaired.  As you can see by the picture, it looks like a new airplane.

The Squadron Commander was Bill Peters who was a stern no-nonsense guy and he called Rich and me to his office.  Needless to say I was shaken a bit about things and was worried as I went into the office. But Colonel Peters calmly asked us to tell him what happened. Rich told him of the briefing and all he knew about the mission. I told him that I had just screwed up the maneuver and could not make the pull out.

Colonel Peters called us all together later that day and told us essentially that there were two kinds of pilot-error accidents.  One is a pilot screwing around with a private airshow and he crashes. The other is a pilot trying to do the job assigned and he crashes. He added that my crash was the latter, that it was a line-of-duty crash; that I was trying to manage the assigned mission and it did not work out. He said we will support Sam through this problem. I admired Bill Peters before that day and much more after that.

A few days later I returned to Yokota AB on a C-130, landing close to midnight.  My Wing Commander was Chester Van Etten and he met me at the aircraft which was a surprise for me. He didn’t say much more than, “Sam, I think the Old Man is going to kick your ass and my ass off this base”. I remember this direct quote very well. I asked what he meant and he said that the Commander of 41st Air Division, Colonel Maurice Martin, wanted me in his office at 0700 the next morning.

Needless to say that I did not sleep much that night so it was easy to be up early.  I suited up in the Class-A uniform and drove over to the Air Division Headquarters. I left early as I had never been to the headquarters and was not sure how to get there or where the headquarters building was located. I got there early and the secretary was kind of laughing when she said Colonel Martin was waiting for me. Needless to say I was in a state of great concern at this moment.

I went into the office, saluted, and said I was reporting as ordered.  Colonel Martin was smiling, he saluted back, and then he said, “You almost busted your ass”. I told it was close and then he said, “What would I have told your mother?” I asked why he would be talking to my mother and he said they had gone to high school together in Bluefield, West Virginia. He told me to not worry about the crash and then we spent about an hour talking about Bluefield and Beaver High School.

I went back to Yokota where Colonel Van Etten wanted to know what happened.  I told him Colonel Martin told me to “keep up the good work”. I did not tell him about my mother, Bluefield, and the Beaver High School connection until many years later.

All of the senior officers then were special people.  I visited with Colonel Van Etten several times a year when he was in his nineties. I was with him just a month or so before he died at age 95-years. My eyes get a bit cloudy when I think of Bill Peters and Chester Van Etten.

The effects of the crash stayed with me for more than a year.  The movie “Top Gun” showed that when Cruise crashed the Tom Cat. It isn’t fear but a loss of self-confidence that is necessary for controlling a bird like the F-105. Those of you that play golf know of the problems when you start to think too much about what you doing; movements have to be natural and without thinking about that move. Fortunately, I eventually got back to being comfortable and natural in the Thud.

F-105, 62-4318
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“The Book of Sam”

“The Book of Sam,” is a new category I am creating of stories Colonel Sam Morgan has shared with me here of late. I have never met Colonel Morgan personally, but I have known him all my life. He embodies the ‘Fighter Pilot spirit’ I have held ever since I began riding my bicycle like an F-86 as a kid.

I first heard of Colonel Morgan from my father-in-law, Colonel Bobby J. Mead. They had flown F-105s together in Japan. In the early 70s, Dad would begin to tell a story involving Sam, and he would start to laugh, unable to continue as he thought about what was coming. Then he would compose himself and continue, only to begin laughing again. So I knew a ‘little bit’ about Colonel Morgan before I actually met him (electronically).

A couple of years ago I discovered him in a Facebook group dedicated to F-105 pilots. I reached out to him and we have been chatting ever since. And he has validated a lot of the stories I heard from Dad, and they make me laugh!

Here recently I asked him if I could include his stories on a You Tube channel I have, “Three’s In”, and he graciously agreed to let me share them. These are “priceless” stories as they give the viewer insight into a period of Air Force flying and operations that could only have occurred when it did. Men like Colonel Morgan were, and remain my Heroes.

I am grateful to Colonel Morgan for allowing me to publish his stories here and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do. I am proud to wear the same wings as he does…

Colonel Sam Morgan

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F-100 Wire Strike

This is a story Colonel Sam Morgan shared with me about a flight he had with Bart over to Osan, Korea in the early 60s..

“I think it was 1962 or maybe 61.  Bart and I were sent to Osan in an F-100F for Armed Forces Day.  We had the night off so we took a taxi to Pyong Tech for an evening at the Officer’s Club.  We were carrying on at the bar, eating a raw steak, and yelling & hollering.  There were a bunch of Koran girls in the room wearing evening dresses and Bart kept yelling, “What are these wh… doing in the OC.  Finally, some guy came up and announced he was the Colonel in charge of the Post and he had as many of us as he could stand.  He was in the process of heaving us out when another Colonel came up, and announced he was in charge of the helicopter unit, and he wanted us to stay.  We stayed and I don’t remember how the evening ended but we awoke in a tent the next morning with a Sergeant shining our shoes (you had to wear Class A off base in Korea).  He said we had made a hit the night before and there was a helicopter waiting to take us where ever we wanted.  We did not feel well so we opted for a ride back to Osan.

We flipped a coin and I lost so Bart went to the Alert Pad and to bed and I went to the flight line to stand with the airplane.  About mid-afternoon Bart came bopping down, fresh as a daisy, and said, “Let’s go”.  I told him we had to stay til 1700 and he said bull shit.  We climbed in, cranked, tossed the ladder off onto the ramp, and started taxiing through the crowd  —  me in the back and Bart in the front.  We had 450s (external fuel tanks) so lots of fuel, but also a 450-knot speed limit.

As we climbed out Bart said, “We can’t go back without saying goodbye to our Army friends”  and I said, “course not”.  We were at about 20,000 and below us, we could see hundreds of tents in very neat rows and columns with a broad main street right down the middle  —  all dirt roads.  Bart nosed over with the burner lit and headed down.  I told him we were over the tank limit and he said he didn’t worry about that.  Soon we are very low and at a very high speed coming down Main street.  To give you an idea of the altitude, we almost made it under the wires  —  but not quite.

We hit and I hollered that we had hit something.  Bart said he didn’t feel it.  I told him to look back at my canopy where it was scratched opaque except for two little bands, one on each side.  I could see damage to the tanks.  Bart pulled up and we headed for Japan.  He suggested that we go out over the Sea of Japan, bailout, and claim that it caught fire.  I vetoed that idea and told him they would know why it caught fire.  We landed at Itazuke after dark on a Friday night so the only guy on the flight line was a guy to set the chocks.  We we got out of the aircraft he said something to the effect, ” H— Sh–, what did you guys hit?”  We told him to put the bird in the hanger, we would be back.

Our Maintenance Officer was Mother Hubbard and we had squadron maintenance.  We went to the club, got Mother, and returned to the hangar.  As we walked he said something to the effect, “H— Sh–, what did you guys hit?”  We told him we had already gone through that with the mechanic, could we fix it?

We worked with the mechanics all weekend putting on a new canopy, new tanks, and some skin patching on the rudder which was what cut the wires.  On Monday things seemed quiet so at 1400 Bart came up and suggested we go to the club to celebrate the Great Escape.  We were at the bar celebrating when Max Beall came in, ordered us to attention, and read Article 32 of the UCMJ.  It turns out we had not noticed the skin missing on top of the nose.  Charlie McClarren had gone out to fly the plane and, as he topped the ladder, he glanced at the nose to see nothing but ribs and radios.

We were grounded and the investigation started.  Many times I was asked if I was innocent and I had to say we were both equally guilty although I probably would have gotten under the wires.  After about a month where I was permanent range officer and Bart (I think) was permanent Mobile, they had a big trial  —  like a real criminal trial.  After deliberations they announced that it wasn’t really our fault but it was a lack of training; that indeed, with the right training we would have made it under the wires.  They started with the punishment phase and were starting to say that Bart and I could not fly together for a month when our Flight Commander, Bob Middlebrooks, hopped up from the back and said, “Hold it, Colonel, I think you are being too hard on the boys.”  Bart then hopped up and told Middlebrooks to be quiet.

After a little discussion, the court agreed and announced that we would take a low-level training mission over Korea with Middlebrooks in the back as the Instructor.  

The Army never complained.

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Operation Spring High

This is an animated video on Operation Spring High, a mission to go after the Sams in North Vietnam.

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Over-Gross A ’38?

Yep, you can do it, I did once…

This one weekend Butch (not his real name) and I took a T-38 to California for a weekend cross country. We flew into Norton AFB then rented a car and drove to Indio, CA. I had an aunt and uncle who retired there whom I really liked to visit with.

We had a great weekend with them and on Sunday morning they invited us to take as much citrus fruit as we wanted. They had plenty in their backyard. As it turned out we left with 5 grocery bags of grapefruit and huge lemons. It wasn’t going to be a problem as we had a pod on the jet that weekend. Or so we thought.

We packed most of the grapefruit and lemons in the pod, then stuffed the rest throughout the jet. The seat packs, pin boxes and where-ever. Never gave it a second thought. Dumb!

Start and taxi were unremarkable. It was on takeoff that things began to get our attention. I was making the takeoff to the East that morning. The first thing I noticed was the jet just didn’t seem to be accelerating as normal. Then when we got to 130 knots I began to rotate but the nose just wouldn’t lift off. So I relaxed back pressure and let it accelerate a bit more. Finally, at 155 kts, I rotated and it came airborne. Slowly. Mushy. It was really struggling! The engine instruments both looked good.

When we finally got to 300 kts I began the climb. Again, mush. After discussing it with Butch, it finally dawned on us – ‘Ya think we may have over grossed the pod?’ It had an 140-pound weight limit, and we had 5 bags of citrus on board. No idea to this day how much that weighed.

We made it to Willi, Williams AFB, AZ and landed without further incident. Give away some of our citruses for the next leg home? Oh, Hell no! Again we had a long runway and favorable winds, so off we went. This time Butch was flying.

Slow acceleration, mushy takeoff and climb, and fuel consumption off the charts! But we made it and gave the crew chief a lemon upon landing.

Would I do it again? Oh Hell No! Still today don’t know what I was thinking!?

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My Brains and Your Hands!

One afternoon JD came into the flight room, slammed his kneeboard and checklist down on the table, and exclaimed to his student, “I wish I had my brains and your hands!” This is the back story, provided by the student…

“One of my most memorable flights was when I was flying solo and Jack Dyer, my instructor, was flying in the back seat of the wing aircraft with student Bruce Mason.  Bruce led the first portion of the mission and then gave the lead to me so that I could lead through the various formation maneuvers.  I was flying a very smooth platform for Bruce and in the process lost track of where I was in our assigned tube (working area).  While studying the HSI to determine our exact location I realized we were getting dangerously close to one of our borders and, as I started a 90* bank turn looked over and saw Jack slamming his fists on the canopy rails in Bruce’s back seat and thought to myself, “Yep, I’m about to bust out of our tube.”  I managed to stay in the tube and not bust the ride, but it was only by the grace of God.  Jack said if I had lowered the gear at that point, they probably would have crossed into the other tube.
Upon returning to Vance we were parked in different rows. I caught an early tram back to the squadron building and Bruce and Jack caught a later tram.  After hanging up my parachute, g-suit, and helmet I went to the snack bar, got a Coke, and sat down at our desk in the flight room.  To help with the workload of flying formation, there were a couple of guest IPs from other flights and the room was full of debriefing crews.  When Jack came in, he came over to our table, where I was sitting, slammed his checklist onto the desk, which got everybody’s attention, looked at me, and said, “Pipkin, I wish I had your hands and my brains.  I would be the best fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force.”  As you can imagine, that got quite a laugh from everybody in the room.  And, I didn’t know whether to say, “Thank you” or “I’m sorry.”
Jack was a great instructor.  I’m glad I got to fly with him.”

Jack is still a dear friend of mine today, and I agree, a great IP!

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Now, That’s Something We Haven’t Seen Before…

So, one morning at Vance AFB, OK a 4-ship lined up on Rwy 17C for departure. Number 2 was on the left side of Lead with 3 and 4 on the right side. The formation was holding on the runway, waiting for takeoff clearance. Upon receiving clearance for takeoff Lead directed the formation to Channel 4, (Departure Control) and gave the formation the hand signal to run up the engines. Usually, no big deal however on this day Number 3’s radio began to “channelize,” e.g., cycling through all the channels; click, click, click…

Lead called for everyone to check in but “3” couldn’t hear him; click, click, click… With Nr.3 not checking in Lead called for everyone to go back to Channel 3, Vance Tower. And wouldn’t you know it, this was exactly the moment 3’s radio stabilized – on Channel 4! When the IP in the lead aircraft looked back at him, the IP in Nr. 3 nodded his head, indicated he was on Channel 4 and ready to go. So now Lead, 2 and 4 are on Channel 3 and Nr. 3 is on Channel 4. Not a comfortable position to be in on an active runway.

Now, keep in mind, everyone has been sitting on the runway with the engines in Mil (Full) power. Frustrated, the lead IP smacked his glare shield, looked at Nr. 3 and held up 3 fingers, thinking Nr. 3 would return to Channel 3. Not the case. Nr. 3 nodded his acknowledgment, released brakes, and took off – leaving Lead, 2 and 4 all sitting there – somewhat astonished!

So now Lead sends Nr. 2 and Nr. 4 to Channel 4, they run up their engines and takeoff, chasing Nr. 3. The RSU Controller remarked, “Now, that’s something we don’t see every day!”

Somewhere on departure they all joined up and got the aircraft in the correct positions and the mission continued as briefed.

Upon debrief, Lead asked 3 what the Hell happened. They all were aware of the radio problems Nr. 3 experienced as they took the runway. Then Nr. 3’s IP explained what he saw.

After stabilizing in position for takeoff he nodded his head that he was on Channel 4 as required. Then he saw Lead’s IP smack his glare shield and hold up 3 fingers. He took this as, “my aircraft is screwed up, Nr. 3 has the Lead!” So he nodded his head in acknowledgment, ran up his engines and took off – alone!

There was never a “routine” flight in UPT!

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“Sir, Is This Legal?”

(Callsign) “CP/IP” (Cabbage Patch Instructor Pilot) came into my office one morning and asked me if I would like to fly with her in an “open jet.” I stared at a stack of paperwork and thought to myself, “why not?” CP/IP was a FAIP and I enjoyed flying with her.

It was an overcast day at Randolph that morning, early morning scud, but I knew it would soon burn off. It always did. We started and taxied and were about to the runway when she noticed the HSI (Heading Situation Indicator) wasn’t quite right. It was just kind of wandering. I had seen it before and knew that it was more than likely “damp” and would soon dry out – once it warmed up. And then it would be fine.

Once we got to the runway I called for takeoff and she told me, “Sir, I just don’t feel comfortable,” and I told her it would be fine. The clouds were just beginning to dissipate at the time and were “broken” in nature. We requested a pattern delay for a simulated single-engine heavyweight pattern and landing before departing to the area.

“Sir, I’m not sure about this,” she said once again, and I told her that we would be fine.

We took off on Runway 14L and I checked in with Departure Control. They, in turn, told us to turn to a heading of 050 degrees. “How are we going to do that?” she asked, as I gave her control of the jet. “Well, look out the window and put the runway 90 degrees to your left shoulder” She seemed apprehensive at first but did it anyway! When Departure then told us to turn left to a heading of 320 degrees, e.g., parallel to our departure runway, she caught on real fast and began to enjoy it all. From there on throughout the remainder of the pattern and subsequent touch-and-g0 she seemed to enjoy herself, never once noticing that the HSI had stabilized!

After getting airborne again, on departure leg, I pointed out that the HSI had realigned itself and explained how knowing local weather patterns and a little bit about systems could ‘save’ a (student) sortie.

Once we got into our assigned area we found a solid overcast about 12,000 feet or so. Beauty, time to play! I asked her if she had ever performed a 4-point aileron roll. “No,” she replied.

“Well, why not?” I asked.

“It’s not in the syllabus, Sir,” came the reply.

“Okay, fine,” I replied, “go ahead and try a 4-point aileron roll, with the could deck simulating the ground.”

She was a bit reluctant but went ahead anyway. She dove down to just above the (cloud) deck and began to roll, stopping at each “quadrant.” 90 degrees left bank, inverted, then 90 degrees right bank. Throughout her maneuver, the nose continued to drop toward the cloud deck, until we penetrated the deck before rolling out wings level. As far as I knew, it was the first one she had done. So I asked her if she would mind if I tried one.

I took the jet to about 18,000 feet then rolled back down onto the deck, leveling about 50 feet off the clouds. I then showed her how to begin the maneuver first by raising the nose ever so slightly before rolling. Then I showed her how to use “top rudder” to keep the nose up while in a 90-degree bank. I then leveled off and pulled up into the sky, rolling as we went. I then told her it was her turn.

This time she performed the maneuver perfectly and I could almost see her grin as she pulled up!

Nothing was ever said about either maneuver in our debrief. Didn’t have to talk about it – she “got it.” This was one of the facets I loved about being an IP – actually “teaching” kids how to fly!

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