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.
George Edward Buchner
George E. Buchner graduated from Oscoda, MI High School as Valedictorian of the Class of 1957. His high school years were full of fun as he lettered in Basketball, Football and Baseball. Not only was he a star athlete but was also Class officer, Key Club officer, and a Member of the National Honor Society.
George was number five of the ten Michigan boys selected for Air Force. He graduated in the top half of the Academy class of 1961.
After his graduating from pilot training at Craig AFB in 1962 he took one of two available F-102 assignments. Webb AFB got all the F-100 assignments because it had the supersonic T-38 as opposed to the T-33 at the other six bases.
He was first assigned to 445th Interceptor Squadron at Wurtsmith AFB, MI in 1963 where he flew the F-101B and T-33. He sat nuclear alert in the F-101B and flew maintenance test flights until May 1966.
In 1966 George graduated from F-100 training at Luke AFB. About that time the U.S. Army decided it wanted “fighter qualified forward air controllers (FAC)”. Multiple F-100 classes were reassigned as FACs.
Then in 1966, he was sent to Vietnam to fly 0-1 and 0-2 aircraft in I Corps. His missions included controlling airstrikes, naval gunfire and artillery for U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, and Korean Marines. While in Vietnam George flew 323 combat missions with 700 hours of combat time. For this he was awarded the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 20 Air Medals, Navy Commendation Medal, Korean IN HUN, and the Purple Heart.
1968 found George “Spider” Buchner training in the F-4. He flew the aircraft in Japan and Korea in 1968-69. He sat 15 minutes alert in Korea; flew maintenance test flights, and was an F-4 instructor pilot and flight examiner. George was then selected for Air Force Test Pilot School and was promoted to Major 3 years early.
Buchner went on to become a Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Test Pilot School in 1970. He flew the T-38, T-33, F-104, F-106, B-57, B-52, glider aircraft, and helicopters. He also flew the F-104 (NF-104} to Mach 2.2 plus and 104,100 feet.
He volunteered to fly with the U.S. Navy as Experimental Test Pilot in 1970-72 and flew the A-7C/E, A-4, and F-4 aircraft while testing laser-guided weapons and electro-optical weapons. He was the A-7E operational test and evaluation project officer and was carrier qualified in the A-7E. His duties also included briefing new air-to-ground weapon information to the aircraft carrier aircrews and the Commander of Task Force (CTF) 77 in the Gulf of Tonkin. George was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal and became a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He was again promoted (3 years early) to Lt. Colonel.
George then attended and graduated from “Moody Suter’s F-4 Fighter Weapons School course and Top Off”, a program for experienced fighter pilots designed to improve the air-to-air kill ratio in North Vietnam
1972 began a 2nd tour in Vietnam as F-4 squadron operations officer and squadron commander (421st TFS/Udorn, Thailand). He flew 97 combat missions and 300 hours in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, including escorting B-52s and fighter bombers to downtown Hanoi during the Christmas 1972 raids. George was selected to investigate an F-4 accident that happened in Cambodia during his Udorn tour. The report was lauded by the Convening Major General. George was promoted to Colonel about eight years ahead of his contemporaries. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals for this tour. He left SEA again in 1973.
1974 found George as Division Chief on the Air Staff in the Pentagon until 1976. He was Chief of USAF Manpower Requirements and Chief of Plans and Organization and awarded the Legion of Merit. He was then selected to attend the Harvard Business School or the Stanford Business School and graduated from Stanford in 1977.
Buchner was nominated to NASA for Space Shuttle duty and was one of the finalists for Mission Commander on the Challenger mission.
From 1977-1979 George was Deputy Director of Fighter and Reconnaissance Operations in Tactical Air Command Headquarters where he assisted in the management of all fighter/fighter reconnaissance units in the U.S, as well as fighter training; simulators; foreign military sales and the Thunderbirds. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
In 1979 he began an assignment as F-4 Wing Vice Wing Commander in Korea. The Wing had three F-4 squadrons and five operating locations and passed an ORI. Buchner led a firepower demonstration for United Nations observers at Nightmare Range on the DMZ. This assignment lasted until 1980.
In 1980 and 1981 George was 23rd Air Division/23rd NORAD Region Vice Commander/Commander. The organization was responsible to the air defense of 17 states (including Michigan) and parts of Canada. As Accident Board President he identified an F-101B issue that had caused fatalities and a fleet-wide problem. Three previous accident boards had failed to find the problem. For this, he was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal.
George retired from the USAF in 1981.
He then began a career in LearJet/Citation jet charter operations and aerospace marketing with McDonnel Douglas from 1982-87.
From 1987-1997 George was the owner/operator of two Christmas tree farms in Northeast Michigan 1987-1997. He was active in his community and involved in environmental issues in Oscoda Township. He led an effort to get a law passed to keep off-road vehicles (ORV) on designated trails and out of trout streams. (Used a Cessna 172/182 to document ORV damage.) He organized efforts to pick up 37 tons of trash on public land and was instrumental in establishing the Michigan Adopt-A-Forest program. He applied for and got $500,000 of grant money to repair ORV damage to trout streams and coordinated with the Iosco Soil Conservation District to stabilize the AuSable River bank and build a fishing platform at Foote Site.
Buchner also assisted law enforcement officers in apprehending and prosecuting four wood poachers, then testified to Congress in Washington DC about ORV issues. He was named 1991 Co-Environmentalist of the Year by the Michigan United Conservation Club.
George assisted with the entrepreneurial start-up of Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis LLC 1998.
He was an expert aviation witness in an international, conspiracy to commit murder trial, and traveled to Cuba twice to gather evidence. He testified for five days in Federal Court 2001.
Col. George Buchner is a Life Member of the Air Force Academy Alumni Association, the Stanford Alumni Association, the Daedalians, and the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association.
He is also a member of Scottsdale Bible Church; Nye, MT Community Church; National Rifle Association; Society of Experimental Test Pilots; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Juvats; Tailhook Association; Aspenosium; Arizona Pilots Association; Deer Valley Pilots Association, FAC Association and of course the Super Sabre Society.
Since 2001, George has owned a PA-140 and a Cessna 182. The Cessna 182, N6108B, is hangered at Deer Valley Airport and is flown frequently. He is a frequent attendee at FAAST seminars.