Robert "Pat" Barry
Pat flew the Hun with the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing out of Cannon AFB. NM. For a great Caterpillar Story, click on the Caterpillar Club tab.
- 1964 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Chief of the Stan/Eval, Cannon AFB, NM
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Robert “Pat” Barry – Caterpillar Story
In mid-summer of 1964, Pat was Chief of the Stan/Eval shop of the 27th TFW at Cannon AFB.
One fine day, Pat was scheduled to give a check-ride on a gunnery mission to nearby Melrose Range with a Newby wing pilot. It was a three-ship with the Checkee as #2 and an Old Head (Al Martin) as #3. It was a perfect day to fly the F-100, aka the Hun.
As Pat started a straight-ahead climb for some altitude, he advised 2 to pull out of formation to the right (“You’re on your own, Son.”), then began a slow turn to the left toward a downwind for Runway 22 and eventually leveled on around 2,500 AGL Not long after he started the climbing turn, Old Head 3 was closing and advised that Pat was “torching” from right aft of the canopy, and as he closed, he advised (strongly) that Pat should eject ASAP.
“Right on,” thought Pat, as he gave up on an attempt to land on Runway 22 from the downwind perch. The lineup on Runway 22 was Lead on the centerline, #2 on his right wind and #3 on the left, As briefed, Lead and 2 made a formation takeoff, with 3 following with normal spacing. Just after Pat felt the familiar wheels-up thump, he was staring at a Fire Warning Light … and that perfect day went straight to hell!
Surveying his position, he had Base Housing on his left and lots of Clovis on the right. So he continued his left turn and pointed the jet to due north where there was plenty of wide-open space for the plane to “plant” itself. Pat went into the prepare-for-ejection drill, trimming the wings to level and with some nose-down trim to assure hitting his open space target. And as he took a last look at the crippled jet, he thought to himself, “It’s all under God’s control now.” Providential!
“Whoosh, KaBang!” The canopy blew and the ejection seat went up the rails. Pat was soon tumbling head over heels but soon got a good chute. Then, he watched with considerable angst as he watched the jet slowly turn to the right and plow, intake first, into the ground about 100 yards from a large building that turned out to be an Elementary School!
Almost simultaneously, Pat survived a “pretty hard” landing [likely because of his attention to the crashing plane] but was able to walk under his own power when the base Pedro helicopter arrived.
Pat was concerned when he saw some of the students come out of the school to gawk at the smoking hole that had just arrived in their backyard. So, he had Pedro take him to the school, and found himself pleading with the kids to get back into the building because the 20 mm rounds were cooking off in the wreckage!
About that time, an Air Force Staff Car arrived, driven by non-other than Colonel Albert W. “Al” Schinz, the well-liked CO of the 832nd Air Division at Cannon. He had been in the vicinity of the crash area on business with the “Committee of 50” [a joint Air Force/City of Clovis organization] and came to the crash site when alerted by “the Brick.” It was he that, after a cursory evaluation of the situation, concluded that Pat should be at the hospital, not the crash site; and with that decision, drove Pat away from the crash site … and that’s the end of this Caterpillar Club tale [as told to Medley Gatewood].
While researching this oral tale, I discovered that there is, today, a Clovis Elementary School in the general area of where this Hun crashed. Name of the school? Would you believe Barry Elementary School? I asked Pat Barry if he knew of it, and the answer was no. Ah, but Fate IS the hunter! — R. Medley Gatewood