David C. McCarthy

Capt. (Major selectee) David C. McCarthy, Class of 1975, died in a mid-air collision of two F-15 aircraft at Luke AFB, Ariz., on March 7, 1986. He was performing his duty as an instructor pilot upgrading a student to mission-ready status in the Eagle.

Dave was a member of 6th Squadron while at the Academy. His postgraduate career included duty assignments to Vance AFB, Okla. (ATC), where he served as a T-38 IP and flight examiner; Eglin AFB, Fla. (TAC), where he served as an F-l5 pilot and received Top Gun honors and a nomination as 9th Air Force’s F-15 Demonstration Pilot; and Luke AFB, Ariz. (TAC), where he served as an F-15 IP and received Top Gun honors, 832nd Air Division Company Grade Officer of the Quarter (April-June 85), and the nomination as 12th Air Force’s candidate for the prestigious award to Tactical Air Command’s top fighter pilot, the Lt. Col. Anthony C. Shine Award.

Dave is survived by his wife, Cyndi, and daughters Laura (6) and Lisa (2), all of 6110 West Charter Oak, Glendale, Ariz. 85304; his mother, Mrs. Bobbie McCarthy, of Irvine, Calif., and two brothers, Mike and Rick.

Once again the price of peace and freedom in our country has been paid for dearly by one of our finest. While we sense a harsh pain at the loss of our friend and comrade, let’s focus for a moment from our inward thoughts to Dave’s wife Cyndi, and daughters Laura and Lisa. No words can adequately describe what they are feeling, but as life goes on for them they will, in a sense, continue to pay for the peace and freedom we all enjoy today. May we never forget.

For those of us who knew Dave well, we remember how often he talked of the things that mattered most to him. He wanted his friends and classmates to know what he believed in and who had the most impact on his life.

Foremost, Dave was a committed Christian. He believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and recognized that this fact required him to make the single most important decision in his life. Dave accepted Christ as Lord of his life, and this commitment permeated everything else that he did. Seeking a Christ-centered standard of excellence became the common thread in his endeavors as a husband for Cyndi, a father for Laura and Lisa, a friend to us, and as an Air Force officer serving his country. He wanted people to see how God changed his life and provided him a lasting sense of worth and well being. Many of us can attest that Dave accomplished these things with style and eloquence.

Dave would have wanted us to reflect on the thought that he is now spending time in eternity with God. For many of us that believe as he did, we endure for but a short time an interrupted friendship with Dave. Some day soon, we’ll see Dave again, to continue where we left off. May we keep that in mind as we once again close ranks in the continued service of our God and country.

A memorial fund has been established in Dave’s name and donations may be sent to the David C. McCarthy Memorial Fund, Association of Graduates, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. 80840-5000.

Capt. Mike Biedermann ‘75  |  March 1986



Photographs and Memories


Today I honor a fallen Friend, Warrior, Father, Husband and favorite Son. Many of you knew Dave McCarthy, USAFA 1975.

I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Dave daily for the better part of half of my own Air Force career. He was my T-38 IP, then we were at Eglin and Luke together. At Eglin, in rival F-15 squadrons, then at Luke in his flight in the 550th. 

March 7, 1986 was a very dark day as Dave was killed in a mid-air with another F-15. I was TDY to Austin, TX, as a standby pilot for Lt Gen Chuck Cunningham. I was in Bergstrom Base Ops with my Dad when I found out the news. My Dad had driven down from Dallas to spend the day with me and earlier we'd toured the LBJ Library and Texas State Capitol. I fell to the floor when my Ops Officer, Brian Spitzer, told me the horrible news. 

Despite that jolting loss, Dave left a legacy of excellence I've always aspired to. I saw it in the squadron, in our off-duty Master's degree classes, and in the Air Command and Staff College seminars we also went to together off duty.

He was a great mentor and friend. Many years later, when I'd be sitting number 1 at Austin International Airport, which is what Bergstrom AFB became, as I'd look out over the plain to downtown Austin on a hill, I'd always think of Dave and that fateful day. 

On Sep 26, 2011, we had a visit and I took a photo of his resting place in the USAFA cemetery. RIP Dave...Proud Lion. (7 March 2015)

– Gary Turnipseed. (USAFA '76)