William M. Charney
Realizing his flying dreams began with Bill’s entry into the National Guard. After joining the guard, Bill learned that the Air National Guard was in need of pilots; so he was soon on his way to being trained by the US Air Force.
“I had the most marvelous pilot training experience anyone could have. I was a civilian, lent to the Air Force to be trained to fly as a military pilot”, says Bill.
Upon completing his training, Bill returned to his Air National Guard unit and began flying the photo-reconnaissance version of the Martin B-57 (Canberra). A university student at the time, Bill had also become an airline pilot for United Airlines, flying DC-6’s and DC-7’s. Soon after he got a job with United Airlines and moved to Atlantic City. “I was able to move to the local ANG unit in New Jersey, which also entailed converting to the Republic RF-84F Thunderflash jet.”
Charney served active duty twice: once during the Berlin crisis and then Vietnam. “I’d moved from the photo-reconnaissance Thunderflash onto the F-86 Sabre. That was a gorgeous aeroplane−the most exciting airplane I’ve ever flown.”
During the Vietnam War (1968-1969). Bill became an active front line combat pilot. He went on to complete 200 combat missions in Vietnam. (Currently inside Bill’s favorite plane, the Staggerwing, is a small silver plaque with the name Major Sherman Flanagan engraved on it.) “He was my roommate at Phu Cat airbase in Vietnam,” explains Charney. One day we took off in our F-100 Super Sabres and Sherman never came back. They never found him. But the flying out there was amazing − fifty feet above the ground flat-out with tracer ripping past you.”
Bill is reluctant to talk about his time in Vietnam. He was one of the lucky ones to survive a full tour, the same was not true for all of his friends.
Nonetheless, Bill does joke about how he managed to survive unscathed; he says he always flew as fast as possible, fast enough to outrun the bad guys so he wouldn’t be shot down.
When the war was over, Bill (affectionately known as Captain Biff Windsock) returned to his civilian life as an airline pilot and a successful career with United Airlines. (1)
Read the story about how 75-year-old Charney was determined to fly his Staggerwing around the world at http://www.captainbiff.com/pdfs/RewindArticle.pdf
Sources: “About Captain Biff Windsock” http://www.captainbiff.com/ and (1) “Captain Biff Windsock’ takes time out from piloting his prize-winning Beech 17 Staggerwing The Red Rockette around the world to talk to Pilot” – Pilot December 2012
- 119th Tactical Fighter Squadron, NJANG, Atlantic City, NJ (B-57, F-84)
- 1961 Called up for Berlin Crisis
- 1968-1969 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Phu Cat, Vietnam (F-100 – 200 combat missions)
Awards & Decorations
Military & Civilian Education