After a short rest from the rigors of journalism I send you all my greetings from beautiful Vandenberg AFB. My apologies for not writing sooner, when the deadline came up for the last issue I had just received notice of a PCS with TDY enroute. That in itself is not too bad, but I only had eleven days to pack, move 3600 miles, and report for missile school at Vandenberg. A whole month had passed before I even knew where I was. I’ll do my best to let all of you know what is going on and where.
Awards and Decorations: Four of our number have been presented Commendation medals. They are: Steve Haas, Gene Copeland, Mike Fritz, and Bill Buchta. Lee Cross was a member of Grand Forks’ Outstanding Crew of the Month and John Saxman has earned the honor of Junior Officer of the Quarter at Nellis.
Graduations: Mike Heil completed Squadron Officer School and also earned his M.S. degree at Columbia University.
Movements: It looks like Dick Dye has become the first return to the nest. Dick recently became a Comp Sci instructor at the Academy. He completed his M.S. at UCLA in 76. Mickey Wright is now flying T-43s out of Andrews, Mike Matte is in munitions at Andersen, Guam, and Randy Mason is now at Ramstein flying F-4Es. Doug Lain moved from Lowry to Langley. Frank Falkovic went to Alconbury from Shaw, and Dave Haugen recently returned from Kadena to McChord. Dave Livingston, Claude Keith, Bob Awtry, and Bob Knauff all deployed to Camp New Amsterdam, Netherlands, to take part in a changeover from the F-4E to the F-15. Tom Udall, a CE type, went from Luke to Kunsan, and Dan Falvey arrived at Bitburg from Travis. Dan is a maintenance officer. Lee J. Monroe is off to Lakenheath from Mountain Home. Lee J. will be flying the F-111D.
Red Flag: The following 75ers participated in RED FLAG: Brian Barnes from Travis, Ken Whitley from Ellsworth, Gary Oreshoski from Ellsworth, and Mike Anderson from Ellsworth.
John Noetzel flew a T-33 in support of VIGILANT OVERVIEW, a NORAD exercise, and Lee J. Monroe flew in MIDLINK, a CENTO exercise.
Good News: Duane Jones got married early in February in Japan. Best wishes to you and your bride, Duane.
Odds and Ends: Steve Brown got the chance to actually check out a Mig-21 while TDY to the Sudan. Steve flies the F-15 out of Langley. There’s no comparing the two, I’m sure.
Fred Whitican has decided to make the supreme sacrifice. He’s set aside the rat race for a bit and has tried out for the Air Force bobsled team. Not bad, huh??? The best is yet to come. Fred was selected for the National Team which required his going to Konigsee, Germany for two weeks. He’ll be all tied up in that action until October. At that time he’ll begin working on his form so he will be competitive for the 1980 Olympics. Super Job, Fred!!!!...and thank you for the letter Bev. [Article Below]
Jim Mahoney says the only people in existence who protect the Western World from the Commie Hoard are the guys in the Big 22, The Last of the Red Hot Fighter Squadrons. Dave Anewalt, Mark Beesley, Greg Black, Doug Fraser, Ken Hossler, Chris Goetsch, Mark Holmes (18), Mike Straight, Al Peck, Bran McAllister, and Jim are all doing their part at Bitburg.
Tom Topolski is here at Vandenberg with me. Tom was lucky enough to be selected for missile duty at Minot. You can all rest assured that Tom is just thrilled to death with both the duty and the location…at Vandenberg, that is, not Minot.
I got one other note. Dave Clough has graduated from Med School at the University of Texas. That makes him the first doctor in 75. Congratulations, Dave.
If anyone out there knows who our class officers were, I’d appreciate it if you would either write me or the AOG. Colonel Andrus is working on a history of the Academy and needs the information.
One last note…The price of the Class Crests is going up rapidly. If any of you would like to contribute to a worth cause, namely putting 75’s crest on the Class Wall, please contact me. I will have all of the information necessary in the next issue. Right now the price is about $2400.
Take care ’til next time.
My Ejection Story
While I’ve never taken the time to confirm it, several people have told me that my ejection was one of the rare (some have said the only), out of the envelope ejections where the front seater survived, and the back seater didn’t. In either case, it isn’t something for which I care to be famous.
Early December 1978, Red Flag…I was assigned to the 12TRS out of Bergstrom and we had been at Nellis for over a week. I still remember how high my pucker factor was when we first arrived, but by that time I felt like I was starting to get the feel of how everything worked, and wasn’t quite so anxious when we jumped in the airplane. I do recall being surprised at how much the personality of my WSO changed when we first started flying there. R was one of the Squadron’s Assistant Ops Officers and was about as laid back and easy going as any 20+ year Major could be. He never seemed to get excited about anything…until we got to Nellis. I never did ask him about it, but I’ve often wondered if his time in SEA and the “reality” of Red Flag made his fangs come out a little. Be that as it may, we were working well together and had gone the first week without being “shot down.”
That particular morning was windy and cold, but other than that, there was nothing out of the ordinary. We flew our mission; got the photos of the targets we’d been assigned and were in the process of egressing the area when the RWAR Gear lit up like a Christmas tree. Some serious jinking was in order….immediately. While preparing for Red Flag, we had watched countless hours of video where “jinking” aircraft were tracked visually. I was always struck by how easy it was to predict what they were going to do, especially when they rolled inverted. Everyone seemed to start with a hard turn (either right or left) followed by a wings level pull up, then maybe another hard turn, but eventually they rolled inverted, and…..pulled. Some of the other moves were a bit unpredictable, but as soon as anyone rolled inverted, you knew exactly what they were going to do. Tracking them was about as difficult as clubbing carp in a bathtub. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to fall prey to that, and began working on something different. When I rolled inverted, I wasn’t going to pull, I was going to push negative g’s. It all worked well in practice, but on that day, the combination of everything going on (adrenalin, pucker factor, inexperience…etc) led to something dramatically different than the ideal escape maneuver.
What I remember most clearly, is feeling like my mind was split in two distinct parts. One was working frantically to try and understand what had happened and how to fix it, the other part was very calmly saying to myself, “Well…so this is what it feels like to die.” Of course all this happened in a matter of seconds, but it seemed like minutes. At some point, I realized that we needed to get out of the airplane because I wasn’t going to save it. I had my right hand still on the stick, and my left hand on the lower ejection seat handle, when it felt like I was being torn apart. I actually thought that the aircraft had hit the ground and was breaking apart.
As I’ve reflected on that moment, I never quite cease to be amazed at how well we were trained, because it’s the only way I can explain how I could go from knowing I was dead, to realizing that I was hanging in my ‘chute and thinking to myself, “OK, now be sure to do a good PLF.” The problem was that we were so low when we ejected that I never got that entire thought through my head and into my body before I hit the ground. If I recall correctly, the accident report calculated that we were somewhere around 135 degrees of bank, under 500’ and over 540 Knots when we ejected.
The next thing I remember was that I was being dragged by my parachute. I reached up several times to try and release the Koch fittings, but I was bouncing so hard along the ground that even trying to locate where they were on the risers was difficult. At one point, I stopped, and had a moment to try and gather my thoughts and get the chute released. It seemed like I was laying there on my back for quite a while and even though I was extremely groggy, I was getting more frustrated by the second because I couldn’t get free. About that time, a strong gust of wind picked up and off I went again, being dragged over rocks and cactus. If I recall correctly, that day the winds were 30-45 knots.
Somehow crystal clarity returned in a flash, and I thought to myself, “If I don’t get out of this thing it’s going to kill me.” I dug in my heels, arched my back to see if I could dig in harder and finally stopped moving. That time I finally got the chute to release and sat up. Once again, training took over, and the first thing I did was turn off the emergency beacon without really even thinking about it. I noticed that the seat kit hadn’t deployed and found out later that it was because it had hit the ground and jammed before the timed sequence for it to open had occurred (more evidence of how low we were). I looked up straight in front of me, and just over the horizon was a pillar of black smoke. For some stupid reason I remember joking to myself, “Gee, I wonder what that is?” The next two things that flashed into my head were trying to find my back seater, and trying to figure out what had happened. A barrage of questions flashed through my head, “Where’s R? What happened? What did I do wrong? Will I lose my wings?” Then it stopped and a moment of thankfulness that I was alive sort of took over.
The next thing I noticed was the fact that both my gloves were missing, as was my left boot and my helmet; all of which were ripped off in the ejection. I could see that my hands were covered with blood and could feel that my hair and my face were also both covered. I tried to pry open the seat kit to get out the radio and signaling mirror. The first so I could talk to someone, the later to try and evaluate the extent of my injuries. It was jammed so hard that I couldn’t get it opened, so I took the knife in my g-suit, cut a piece of parachute and wrapped it around my head. I also noticed my helmet bag and a piece of the tail sitting right next to it.
I actually don’t know how long I sat there on the desert floor, but I eventually saw a Jolly Green approach from my left rear. I waved, and they flew past me heading for the smoke. I saw them land, and a PJ run from the door and then disappear behind a knoll. He then ran back to the helicopter; they took off, turned around and headed toward me. When they touched down, I got up, and began hopping toward them (only one boot and lots of rocks). They told me to sit down and eventually got me into the chopper. The first thing I did was ask how my back-seater was. “We’re not sure, someone else is checking on him,” was the answer I got, but we all knew what he was really saying.
Shortly after I recovered (nothing more serious than lots of scrapes and lots of stitches) I got orders to Kadena, which combined with things like not wanting to admit what all had happened, and a big law suit, kept me from talking to R’s family for several years. When I finally traveled to see them, they were very gracious and kind, though as you can imagine, it was not the easiest conversation I’ve ever had with anyone.
In the course of the accident investigation, the board had a really hard time understanding what had happened. I told them what I had done with the aircraft, and what I had experienced. It started as planned (hard turn, wings level pull, roll inverted and push), but somewhere between the roll inverted and push, the aircraft started pitching and yawing violently. I was told that at after a whole bunch of head scratching, the board called McDonnell Douglass and talked to several of the chief engineers, who immediately said, “Oh sure, that’s divergent roll-coupling,” which is apparently something the Phantom is famous for, at least in the engineering and test pilot circles.
As I understand it, when a Phantom is loaded up (under g’s) and rolled rapidly (with rudder only BTW, to prevent adverse yaw…another bad problem), the difference between the angle of attack and the axis of roll can cause some serious issues, divergent roll-coupling being one of them. The aircraft starts to yaw and pitch, and instead of having those oscillations converge and dampen, they diverge and the aircraft departs controlled flight.
What had apparently happened during the ejection sequence was this: R had pulled the ejection handle first, but because of the flight dynamics of the aircraft, and something amiss with the seat(s) a bunch of things went terribly wrong (or in my case, perhaps right). His canopy came off and hit the tail of the aircraft. Next his seat came off the rail and also hit the tail, killing him instantly. My canopy came off, broke off what was left of the tail, and then my seat slid up the rails and cleared the airplane.
One of the things that helped me keep my act together on the helicopter ride back to Nellis was finding out that our classmate and my Doolie squadron-mate, S was driving the Jolly Green. Hearing his voice and being able to talk to him at that moment in my life was…priceless.
Fred Whitican had an athletic career like no other from the Blue Water Area.
Not a football, basketball or baseball player, he instead opted for a variety of high-speed sports and nearly wound up in the Olympics.
Whitican, a 1970 graduate of Port Huron High, excelled in track and field for the Big Reds and played travel hockey throughout his youth.
Good enough to receive scholarship offers to college in both sports, Whitican attended the Air Force Academy, where he earned All-America honors in track and field and was a four-year letter winner in hockey. He went on to play a year of semi-professional hockey and captain both the U.S. Air Force bobsled team, which competed in the 1980 Olympic trials, and the Wright- Patterson Air Force Base ski team.
"I wouldn't have changed anything," Whitican said. "The sports I played, I'm happy with." Whitican's accomplishments didn't surprise his teammates from his teen and pre-teen years.
"Fred was very focused," said Jim Fraser, a 1970 Port Huron Northern grad who played several years of hockey with Whitican. "Sports were (a big part of) his life."
John Schneider, a track and field teammate at Port Huron High, said Whitican succeeded because of his competitive attitude.
"I probably wouldn't have been as a good as I was if it weren't for Fred because he pushed me to be better all the time," said Schneider, who went on to play football and run track at Ferris State University.
Whitican's attitude and athletic ability helped him land a shot at the Olympics. Even without any experience in bobsledding, the former star sprinter and hurdler earned his way onto the Air Force team.
"They wanted someone fairly large – 200 pounds was ideal – someone who was fast and someone was fairly crazy," Whitican said, adding bobsledding is a dangerous sport.
His four-man team spent the winter of 1979 in Europe, training and competing in the European and world championships. At the Olympic trials, however, it crashed, eliminating it from the competition.
Whitican was hospitalized after sustaining head injuries and suffering post-concussion amnesia. Never one to sit idle, he went on to ski competitively for several years.
– Rick Janacki, Port Huron Times Herald, 27 December 2009
Greetings once again from the eastern slope of the Rockies. It’s been a long dry summer…only two letters and a card. Even the hometown news service can’t help out much this time around. I do have a few bits of news to relay despite the sparse input.
First of all welcome back to CHECKPOINTS. I guess one just can’t shake one’s beginnings.
Dave Clough wrote to tell me I had made a slight error in the last issue. He was not the first M.D. from 75. He was the first to let me know about it though. Dave and his new wife, Nancy, are packing their things to head off to Travis sometime this summer. Other doctors from Best Alive include: Russ Snyder, Al Limanni, Greg White, Bill Caskey, Bill Wiederman, Scott Swanson, Tom Abshire, Bill Young, Dennis Carter, and Steve Tibbits. Congratulations to all of you.
Steve Stich has become the first Air Force member to win the Helicopter Heroism Award. The Avco Lycoming Company and the Aviation and Space Writer’s Association recognized Steve for a rescue mission which involved flying through dense fog and foul weather to retrieve a stranded park ranger who was perched precariously above a sloping cliff. The mission netted an engraved medal, a $500 honorarium, and a sense of accomplishment for Steve.
Elsewhere in the news…Dale Bugbee was part of Carswell’s Outstanding Crew of the Year. Dale flys B-52s out of Texas. Dan Falvey was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his work at Travis, and I added a cluster to mine for work done at Pease.
Harry Mathis will be married by the time this article is published. August 11 is the big day. Best wishes to you two, Harry.
Bruce Dodds is in London, but I don’t know exactly where nor do I have a ghost of an idea what he’s doing there. Craig Matt is also in England, at Bentwaters, and Jim Foreman just arrived at Lajes.
RED FLAG participants for the quarter include Gary Shugart and Jimmy Scruggs. Ric Dahlstrom and Andy Dichter flew DAWN PATROL, a NATO exercise.
Due to the absence of a better suggestion, it appears that the best way to handle the 75 plaque for the Class Wall is to ask one person at each base to take the initiative and volunteer his services for the duration of the project. Bentley Rayburn has offered his services to the guys at Torrejon, and I figure I can probably handle Warren. That notable contribution will leave about 97% of the class available for anyone else who can help out. Please drop me a line or call me if you can help at all. The price is going up all the time.
I received a nice thick parcel from the AOG the other day thinking that I would have all sorts of good news to write about, but found out instead that most of the members of the class were promoted to Captain. I’m sure that’s not news to any of you, so I’ll refrain from naming those so honored.
By the way, in case you don’t know how this column works, the Air Force News Service sends news releases to the AOG and they forward them on to me. Other than that, I have no other way of knowing about anything that happens to any of you unless you call or write, so help me out. Besides, the news service isn’t always so accurate. I just found out, for example, that Mike Cox and I both graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1975 and that we both got our commissions through the ROTC program while there.
Awards: Jim Dearien was awarded the Air Medal for extraordinary aerial achievement while flying in Zaire. Jeff Thomas is a member of the outstanding Civil Engineering Squadron in the Air Force and Jim Heriot’s crew was the Outstanding Crew of the Quarter at Carswell.
Flags: Marv Cox and Jeff Krumeich both flew RED FLAG recently. According to the news service, Jeff is a pilot with the 321st Strategic Missile Wing at Grand Forks (I didn’t know you could make a training flight in a Minuteman…bet those landings are rough!) Mike Witherspoon flew a MAPLE FLAG (That’s RED FLAG with a Canadian twist).
Moves: Tom Abshire is now a Pediatric Resident at Travis; Terry Young and Jack Shine are Air Weapons Controllers–Terry at Murphy Dome, Alaska, and Jack at Luke; Ralph Paul is flying O-2s at Elmendorf Air Force Base; Dave Beck is a Surgical Intern at Wilford Hall; Mike Matte, still a maintenance officer, just arrived on Guam; Dick Dye is a Comp Sci instructor at USAFA, and Dan Kraft is a basketball coach, also at USAFA. Bill Lyerly is in Nairobi doing medical research and Dave Hickman is in Education with Industry at Buckley, and Joe Stein is at Castle. He must be doing great things, he got his name in Combat Crew for the SAC Safety Screen. Dale Waters’ wife is at OTS. She’ll join Dale at Mountain Home. Dale flies the F-111A.
Expectations and Arrivals: John and Meg Wolter are expecting their first in February. Eric and Alice Lewallen and Don and Gina Byers are expecting but I don’t know when. Dick Webber and his wife had a baby boy, Daniel. Jed and Cam Vanden Dries are also due soon. Diane and I have our second daughter, Amber.
Greetings: Butch Byrd wrote in to say that Ed Mallo, Randy Mason, John Oleksey, Buzz Bannister, Rod Gunther, and he are all flying F-4Es at Ramstein. John Wissman is at Seymour Johnson and Carl VanPelt is at Osan.
Word is that Rich Bowers is first in his class in Law at Florida.
Missing Souls: Someone has misplaced Larry Crenshaw and Mike Simpson. If you have any idea where they are, how about telling them that they are lost and letting me or the AOG know where to get hold of them.
And now, for the part you have been waiting for…THE CLASS CREST. The price is going out of sight. The latest one I have been given is $2400 and that was three months ago. How about each of you sitting down right now while it’s on your mind and writing a check for whatever you can, $10 or so, and send it off to the AOG. Or you can talk to Bentley Rayburn, Jed Vanden Dries, Scott Smith, Chumley Collins, Stan Siefke, or me and we’ll gladly take your money. If we don’t get this thing out of the way fairly quickly, we’re never going to be able to afford it. So help out with whatever you can.
Best wishes to all of you for a great holiday season.