30 November 1957 – Capt Benny Lacombe is killed when he unsuccessfully attempts to bail out of Lockheed U-2A, 56-6704, Article 371, 13 miles SE of Laughlin AFB. Ejection seats had not yet been fitted to U-2s at this point. The history of the U-2 program is fraught with fatalities and crashes. “CIA pilots Wilburn S.
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.
Poem by Robert Pat Barry – Gas Stations in the Sky, Ode to the KB-50 Guys
Cruising down the Yalu doing 620 per,
I gave a call to the Major, “Won’t you save me, sir??”
“Got three big flak holes in my wings, my tank’s running low on gas,
And those KB-50 guys just upped the price of gas.”
Now a tale such as that never did occur,
But the story that follows I truthful: a few of you may concur.
Cruising over the Pacific at Flight Level 360,
We checked in with “Duckbutt Charlie” circling far below.
He gave a vector to the point of rendezvous.
That magic point for fighters was 600 miles west of Holl wood and Vine, and a mere ten minutes from the “Point of No Return.”
The tankers spotted us above and turned on course to Waikiki.
The jets dropped down, took on gas, and then continued heading west.
The tankers turned and headed east.
That was where the fun began on 18 May 1959….
It soon became quite clear; this fighter jet would not make it to the island west of here.
Tomahawk 213 had flaps down and frozen at 30 degrees
Quick calculations did clearly show,
Tomahawk would run out of fuel 150 miles from shore.
I did not panic, but started to pray,
That this jet jock would not swim in the Pacific today.
The only choice left was to turn and head back,
To the great Mohave Desert and George Air Patch.
I called for the tankers to turn around,
And off load more gas so I wouldn’t drown.
The KB-50s reversed their track,
Then met me part way to help me get back.
Flaps were made for landing,
Not for speed or emergency fueling.
The flaps now crept to 45 degrees
And the jet’s top speed was down to 175.
Since mid-air refueling had not been done,
At this low speed by anyone,
Another procedure would have to be tried,
So rewrite the book and help this guy.
Hurry up and try a new trick,
For this Super Sabre was really sick.
The boom operator, by the name of Horne,
Devised a procedure that worked quite well:
He reeled up the hose, then turned it loose,
It slammed onto the probe and the jet took on juice.
The three other tankers used the same trick as well,
And the KB-50’s transferred all they had.
But ejection would still take place,
Fifty miles west of any dry place.
Another tanker north of us, headed south to assist.
He had a full load and was coming fast—he burned up an
engine but didn’t turn back.
His ETA was within minutes of my final “May Day,”
He turned toward the coast in front of me.
The new SOP was now approved, and we all landed safely at George AFB. Thanks to all of you KB-50 guys who operated those gas stations in the skies.
Robert “Pat” Barry
P.S. That was fifty-two years ago. THANKS AGAIN