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.
Bernard J. Higgins
Bernard “Barney” Higgins was born in the coal regions of Pennsylvania in 1934. He enlisted in USAF out of high school in 1952 and became an airborne radio operator. He then graduated single-engine pilot training in Class 55U, receiving his USAF commission and fighter pilot’s wings in August 1955.
His first assignment was flying the F-86D at Pittsburgh PA. He took an early out from active duty to obtain a BSEE from Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he flew the F-84F with the INDANG. He really disliked engineering and went with United Airlines as a pilot in 1964. While flying for UAL out of EWR and New York, he commuted back to Fort Wayne to again fly the F-84F and then the F-100D.
The commuting was too much and he transferred to the Maryland ANG to fly all sorts of trash with propellers – O2A, C-7 Caribou, C-130. He flew thirty years for United Airlines, retiring in 1994.
In his own words he “Never bent metal and never hurt anyone. Someone once told me that you can’t fly forever without getting killed. Nonsense! You just need to be lucky and have a minimal amount of skill.”