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.
James M. Hinkle
I wanted to fly fighters since I was old enough to know what they were and the F-100 since I was 14.
I was 30 before my first F-100 flight on January 24, 1969. I was also married, had a two-year-old son and four years as a T-33/38 instructor pilot. The rated assignments folks at Military Personnel Center told me I couldn’t leave ATC until I completed four years as an IP. That didn’t stop me from calling the fighter assignment guy on a regular basis. He finally said tell him what airplane I wanted and where I wanted to train and stop pestering him! My answer: The F-100 at Luke. He kept his word.
The Hun was probably not the wisest career choice since it was old and on the way out. The future belonged to the F-4. However, I never regretted my decision. I was assigned to the 4511 CCTS at Luke AFB, commanded by the legendary Leslie R. (Les) Leavoy, for “full up” fighter training. This included nuclear weapons training and deliveries. While not thrilled about this, I came to really appreciate the training because I was fortunate to receive an in-theater (USAFE) checkout in the F-4D with the 23TFS.
Three weeks at the gunnery range at Zaragoza AB, Spain, with a dedicated IP and aircraft, a check ride and wham – a “Victor Alert” i.e. nuclear alert. No sweat for a Hun pilot. F-100 training at Luke began by viewing the “Sabre Dance.” That was followed by an eye-opening flying demonstration of severe adverse yaw where the F-100 rolled violently in the opposite direction intended. That certainly had my attention. But we had great Instructors that taught us how to understand the Hun. The F-100 was prickly but honest. It would do exactly as promised.
From Luke, my wife and son moved into the old James Connally AFB housing in Waco, TX. I attended jungle survival training at Clark AFB, then arrived at Tuy Hoa AB, RVN on August 21, 1969, where I flew with the 355TFS and later with Commando Sabre (Misty F-100F fast FACs).
Flying the F-100 whether in peace or war was never dull. Some of my memorable recollections, like realizing that someone was trying to kill me other than a student pilot and a specific mission to Mugia Pass, a location known to most fighter crews in SEA.
Other memorable moments were: an extreme “compressor stall” where flames came out both ends of the plane, my feet were kicked off the rudder pedals and (it seemed to me) every warning light lit up like a Christmas tree. It happened in Laos on a Misty sortie paying some 23 and 37mm gun sites a visit; In-flight refueling where the fuel hose tried to play jump rope with the aircraft; My first drag chute failure; Engine failure on takeoff with a full bomb load no less; Heavyweight takeoff on a hot windless day.
Once, I was “fragged” out of UBON AB, Thailand after diverting for low fuel. The tower traffic controllers were accustomed to seeing F-4s leap off the ground halfway down the runway. I was blowing the dust off the overrun when one “wiseacker” asked if I had an emergency. My reply, “I’m heavyweight, single engine, minimum fuel, it’s called an F-100.” Then there was landing in a thunderstorm on AM2 aluminum matting. No theme park has yet devised as thrilling a ride.
I have a special affinity for F-100F 837 on display at the National Museum of the USAF. My first flight in Vietnam was in 837 for landing recurrency. During my tour, I flew it on several strike and Misty sorties. It was also the plane I flew on my last sortie in Vietnam and my last F-100 flight period.