29 January 1991 – An American F-15C shot down an IRAF MiG-23 fleeing to Iran with an AIM-7 missile. “During the Air War over Iraq, the mighty Eagle proved to be a very robust airframe, bringing back its pilots after suffering serious damages. After the first ten days of the first Gulf Air War, to
Charles W. Friend
I was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1940 and lived there until my entry into the USAF. Living near Wright Patterson AFB, I took notice of the many different types of aircraft that could frequently be seen in the air. I developed a great interest in military aviation and longed to be involved in that someday. I never could have imagined that it could really happen.
After graduation from high school, I had no desire to continue a “formal” education (so boring). My interest (and aptitude) was much more orientated to the technical side of things. I enlisted in the USAF at 18 (1958) and after testing, was overjoyed to be assigned to a one-year technical training course on air intercept RADAR at Lowery AFB, CO. I then worked on the RADAR systems of the F-86K/l and the F 102 at Perrin AFB, TX in 1960. I relished working on those aircraft every day. Again never realizing that there was any possible path that would lead to me actually flying these things.
Upon learning of the Aviation Cadet Program, I applied. After testing I qualified for both pilot and navigator training. I greatly wanted pilot training but the Aviation Cadet program was coming to an end and the last pilot class had been filled. I took the navigator route. I graduated from Cadets in 1962 at Harlingen AFB, TX with a Navigator rating and a commission as a 2/LT. After further training at Mather AFB, CA I was assigned to B-52Hs as an Electronic Warfare Officer at Wurtsmith AFB, MI in 1963. I found electronic countermeasures to be much more interesting than navigation.
Now that I’m commissioned, I can apply for pilot training. I still have no college education. It took a few attempts (years) but I finally got a pilot training slot. SAC was short of EWOs and didn’t want to let me go.
I graduated number four from pilot training in class 68D at Webb AFB, TX. BTW, I, with no “formal” education, won the academic training award with a final academic grade of 99. I had worked very hard in pilot training since I wanted a single-seat fighter slot on graduation. No problem, I took (earned) an F 100 slot.
Off to Luke AFB for F-100 RTU in 1968. We were supposed to go to South East Asia after completing RTU but the squadrons there were fully manned. This was because the F-100 was in the early stages of retirement. So I was assigned to Wethersfield AB and then Upper Heyford AB in England. Our primary mission was Nuclear Alert. The F-100 was being phased out of Europe and I ferried one of our birds to the Springfield, OH National Guard. Then it was off to Phan Rang AB in South Vietnam in 1971. I only got one half of a tour at Phan Rang since the F-100 was retired from the war. I ferried another F-100 to Springfield, OH. I was assigned to command post duty at NKP Thailand to complete my SEA tour.
Upon my return to the US, I was assigned to Laughlin AFB, TX as a T-37 IP in 1972. A mix-up on my “dream sheet” had cost me a follow-on fighter assignment. But it turned out that the T-37 IP assignment was good for me. I think I learned a lot during those years.
In 1976 I was the first guy in a long time to get a fighter assignment out of ATC. I was off to Williams AFB, AZ to be an IP in the F-5. This was a great assignment since we trained pilots (mostly foreign) in all aspects of the F-5 including air-to-air combat and ground attack. The great thing was that about three-quarters of my flying time was in the single-seat F-5E. I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to do this job.
In mid ’79, Military Personnel contacted me about my next assignment. It was to be a non-flying job in the command post in Japan. They said that the assignment required a pilot and since I never had a staff tour, I could not refuse the assignment. I decided to put in my papers for retirement since I was already over 20. I flew my last sortie on the last duty day of 1979 in the F-5E. This timing turned out to be a very good thing for me.
In early 1980, not sure what was in store for me, I used my GI Bill funds to take the Air Line Transport course at Orange County Airport (CA) with Martin Aviation. I flew the Cessna Citation and acquired my Air Line Transport Rating and a type rating in the Citation. Although I had no real desire to fly for the airlines, it was looking like a real possibility.
It turned out that Sperry Flight Systems was just cranking up the QF-100 (drone) development program at Litchfield Airport right there in Phoenix and they were looking for a pilot with F-100 experience. Long story short, I spent the next four years (1980-1984) in the QF-100 program. We operated out of Litchfield Airport in Phoenix and then Tyndall AFB, Florida with several TDYs to Holloman AFB, NM. During the test program, I was a pilot, drone controller, tech writer, and the Sperry F-100 IP/FE. If I had not retired, I would have missed being involved in this very interesting program and the succeeding flying activity.
As the QF-100 development program was winding down, Sperry bid on the QF-100 operational contract which would run on for many more years. Sperry did not win the contract and although the winning bidder would have likely hired me (I was given an informal interview and job offer), I decided that I didn’t want to go that route for various reasons.
Here is that timing thing again. It’s now 1984. With the end of my time at Sperry in sight, I became aware that Flight Systems Inc. (FSI) operating out of Holloman AFB, NM, was in need of a pilot with F 100 experience. I applied and was asked to come to Holloman for an interview. I was offered the job that afternoon.
I loved the job at Holloman. I was checked out in and frequently flew the F-100, QF-86, and T-33 in support of numerous R&D programs at Holloman. I also flew the F-86 in the target tow program (Dart Tow) for TAC. I flew at just about every TAC fighter base in the CONUS as well as Alaska and Okinawa, Japan, and even Cold Lake, Canada. FSI also had the Dart Tow contract in Europe using the F-100. I flew in Europe several times towing targets. We flew out of Wittmund, AB in Germany as well as Decimonanannu, Sardinia for the USAFE F-15s.
During my time at FSI, the QF-106 program was kicked off. Although FSI did not have that contract, Sperry did. As my luck would have it, Sperry subcontracted the flying of the QF-106 program to FSI. I volunteered for that program in a heartbeat. So I repeated my experiences from the QF-100 program but this time flying the QF-106 (1987-1992). My QF-106 activity was rolled into all of my other flying so I was qualified, current, and flew all of these birds at the same time, T-33, F/QF-86, F-100, and QF-106. To say that I loved this job would be a huge understatement. I actually looked forward to going to work every day. Well OK, almost every day.
In 1996 one of the new programs supported by FSI required a DC-9. The program had other DC-9 pilots available (mostly guys from the Navy C-9), but asked all of us FSI pilots if we would be interested in a DC 9 checkout. At this time many of our contracts were fading away since FSI was now a part of BAE and
BAE wasn’t really interested in many of the smaller programs. Target tow for TAC had gone away and things were looking grim for the future. So I thought, why not? I volunteered for the DC-9 checkout. I knew that I would only be a co-pilot (first officer) since I had no previous “heavy experience” and was told that the copilot position required little training. Well, so much for that. Once committed I learned that due to insurance requirements, both pilots had to be fully qualified in the aircraft. So it wasn’t easy, but I completed the DC-9 checkout with the FAA and was given my DC-9 type rating. I flew the DC-9 from 1996 to 1999. The problem for me was that there would be long periods when the aircraft did not fly. This was driven by the program schedule, not with any problem with the aircraft. Also, since I was type rated in a “commercial passenger-carrying ” aircraft, I had to go to an FAA simulator every six months and go thru the complete check ride/emergency procedures hassle. This was never a fun time. After several periods where I had to go get my simulator check with the FAA without even seeing the actual aircraft, let alone flying it, I decided to opt-out and terminated my DC-9 experience in 1999.
In 1997 FSI flight operations ceased at Holloman. FSI was now a division of BAE and BAE just kind of let everything die. They sold off the aircraft and the flying jobs at Holloman disappeared. I was offered a full-time flying job in Germany in the target tow operation there flying the F-100. I passed on this since I did not want to live full-time outside of the US of A.
Although now retired, I still had flying opportunities. I traveled to Alberta, Canada once a year to fly their F-86 (purchased from FSI) in the Canadian target tow operation. I towed for the Canadian CF-18s at Cold Lake. The use of the F-86 in the Canadian target tow operation also eventually came to an end. They sold their F-86 to the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum located at the Portland-Hillsboro Airport. I ferried the aircraft to Portland in October of 2006. In June of 2009, I flew the museum’s F-86 to Hill AFB as a static display bird in the Hill AFB Open House. The return sortie to Portland was my last F-86 flight.
In September and October of 2000, the German target tow operation needed another body. I was only too happy to do the job. So I flew 28 more F-100 sorties in Europe towing for the German F-4s.
Well, my flying career was coming to an end. It was only appropriate that I should finish up by flying my original aircraft type, the F-100. I had the great honor to fly Bud Day in the F-100F at Ellington Field in March of 2011 in the Collings Foundation Vietnam Memorial Flight. But wait, there was one more series of flights for me in the old Hun. I once more flew the Collings Foundation F-100F in the Wings Over Houston Airshow in early November of 2014 at age 74.
Although I could still easily pass the FAA medical at age 80, my pilot services were no longer required. I was so lucky to get to do all of that flying over the years, doing just what I had dreamed about way back in high school.