Lonnie Thomas Sanford


 

Preferred Name: Tommy

Nickname/Call Sign: Tommy

Date of Birth: March 8, 1939

Highest Military Grade Held: Colonel, (O6)

Hometown: Laurinburg, North Carolina

Biography

Let’s Go Fly…
I rolled in the front gate of Davis-Monthan AFB, in Tucson Arizona in late March 1976. I was a part of the AFOTEC  A-10 Operational Test and Evaluation team. Since I was about out of landing currency I was the first one on the team to check out in this lovely beast. When I checked out in the A-10 in April 1976, there were only two pre-production aircraft in existence. Two TAC guys, Wally Morehead and Roger Carleton (who had been flying them at Edwards) flew them over to Davis Monthan where we were going to do the OT&E. There were 6 of us on the team plus Wally and Roger.
Our academic instruction was given by a civilian who had never seen an A-10. The academics were lacking in content and accuracy. After about an hour of not much instruction, Wally turned to me and said, “what do you think?” I said something like, “it’s a straight wing aircraft…can’t be too difficult, let’s go fly”. So we did.
I did a walk-around while asking a lot of questions, Wally helped me start it, I taxied for about 10 minutes, and gave Wally the thumbs up. He hopped into the other A-10 (there were no two-seaters at that time…actually, there were two built later but never bought) and off we went. I remember sitting at #1 and asked myself, “Do you know what the hell you’re doing? You’ve had no real academics in the A-10, etc, etc”. But by then we were rolling down the runway.
And it was easy to fly. First ride, 2 hours, my second ride was on the range firing the A-10’s 30mm cannon (I about wet my pants), the third ride I had to qualify bombs and strafe. That was also my check ride and my instructor pilot upgrade ride. I had 6 hours in the aircraft. Loved it!! 
A Great Place To Grow Up…
I was born in a very small cotton mill town in North Carolina called East Laurinburg. It was a great place to grow up as a kid. I did just about everything I shouldn’t, and since everyone knew everyone, I never got away with a thing. (Life is just not fair.) Eventually, I moved to Charlotte where I met my wife, Shelia. When we started dating she was 14 and I was 15. We ventured apart for a short while (during which I grew up), got back together and have been so ever since. We will be married 57 years in Sept ’17.
I went to N.C. State, graduating in Geological Engineering in January, 1962. I lived in fear that I would have to practice Geology, but fortunately, along came the Air Force
I Arrived for UPT in Big Spring, Texas in March of 1962 complete with wife and new son. I’d never been west of the Appalachian Mountains. With constant tutoring and I’m sure some adult babysitting by my IP, Mario J. Steffinelli (loved that man), I managed to graduate 1st in flying and somewhat short in academics but enough to earn an F-100 slot at Luke.
After my stint at survival school at Stead AFB, Reno, Nevada, I was off to Luke to train in the F-100 Super Sabre. Man, was that aircraft huge. Jim Kelm was my IP.  I still remember my first ride with him. As we were taxing out it started chugging. There was no way I was going to fly this obviously defective airplane. However, as you all know, that was “ops normal” for the Hun. I also flew with Les Frazier and ChoCho Corbett among others.
After Luke, I’m off to the UK for three glorious years in the 77th TFS, 20th TFW. For me, that was very, very maturing time.
I volunteered for Vietnam when my UK time was up and was fortunate to be assigned as a Buzzard in the 510th TFS at Bien Hoa. I flew 293 combat missions and only got hit 11 times. Then I was assigned to Nellis, supposedly to attend the F-100 Fighter Weapons School, only to learn upon arrival that it had been discontinued. I then got assigned to the 474th TFW to fly the new F-111. They only had a handful of aircraft.  After checkout, I was reassigned down the street to the 57FWW and the newly formed 422nd FWS in the operational test business where I spend the remainder of my 5 year Nellis tour.
After Nellis, I headed off to HQ, TAC in Fighter Requirements where I worked a number of aircraft projects including the A-X which eventually became the A-10. After 3 years in that very rewarding business, I was assigned to AFOTEC and to fly the A-10 at Davis-Monthan as part of the operational test and evaluation. After a year and a half doing OT&E on the A-10, I was off to Korea in the 314th Air Division as Chief of Weapons & Tactics. I thoroughly enjoyed this remote assignment and believe we did a lot of good things for and with the Koreans. They are great people and allies. I even liked the food there!
Fortunately, before my remote, I had worked a return assignment to DMAFB. I spent 5 more years at DMAFB, at the end of which I made Colonel and was reassigned to RAF Bentwaters as the DO. After about 8 months, one sunny day my Wing Commander, Dale Tabor called and casually asked if I would like to go to Torrejon as the 401st TFW Vice, flying F-16s. After a nano-second, I responded, “well, I believe I would (or something like that)”. At Torrejon, the 401st had just picked up F-16s replacing the F-4s. I thoroughly enjoyed TJ, the people, and the mission and without question, the F-16.
After a tad less than a year at Torrejon, I had a visit from the USAFE DO, Major General Bill Kirk who I knew from Nellis. He had bad news; Gen Minter the USAFE CC was retiring and the new CC was bringing in his own boys. He asked me where I wanted to go next and said he’d make it happen. I packed up the family and headed North back to the UK as the Vice of 3rd Air Force where I spent a couple more years. Then it was back to Langley as Chief of Armament and Avionics Requirements where we were working on the new air-to-air missile called AMRAAM. I retired in April 1989 after 27 great, great years.
We made a lot of good friends while I was in the Air Force and we keep in touch with many of them. I see them at reunions, and there are a number who live near us in Tucson, AZ (…but it’s a dry heat). I bore our civilian friends with my/our exploits in the Air Force. It was a wonderful and rewarding career.

Units Assigned

  • 1962-1963 UPT, Webb AFB, TX
  • 1963-1964 F-100 training, Luke AFB, AZ
  • 1964-1967 77th TFS, 20th TFW, RAF Wethersfield, UK
  • 1967-1968 510th TFS, 3rd TFW, Bien Hoa AB, Vietnam
  • 1968-1973 422nd FWS, 57th FWW, Nellis AFB
  • 1973-1976 HQ TAC, Fighter Requirements, Langley AFB
  • 1976-1977 AFOTEC A-10 OT&E Test Team,
  • 1977-1978 314th Air Division, Osan AB, Korea
  • 1978-1983 333rd TTS, 358th TTS, 355th TTW, Davis Monthan AFB, AZ
  • 1983-1984 81st TFW, RAF Bentwaters, UK, Director of Operations
  • 1984-1985 401st TFW, Torrejon AB, Spain, Vice Commander
  • 1985-1987 3rd AF, RAF Mildenhall, UK, Vice Commander
  • 1987-1989 Langley AFB, VA, HQ TAC, Chief of Fighter Armament & Avionics, Requirements

Retired in 1989

Awards & Decorations

 Distinguished Flying Cross
 Legion of Merit (2)
 Air Medal(15)

Flight Info

F-100 C/D/F – 1200 hours
F-111 A/E/D – 900 hours
A-10 A – 1715 hours
F-16 A – 135 hours
Total hours 4834

Military Education

SOS
Air Command & Staff College
AWC

Civilian Education

1962 BS, Geological Engineering, North Carolina State

Biography

Biography

Let’s Go Fly…
I rolled in the front gate of Davis-Monthan AFB, in Tucson Arizona in late March 1976. I was a part of the AFOTEC  A-10 Operational Test and Evaluation team. Since I was about out of landing currency I was the first one on the team to check out in this lovely beast. When I checked out in the A-10 in April 1976, there were only two pre-production aircraft in existence. Two TAC guys, Wally Morehead and Roger Carleton (who had been flying them at Edwards) flew them over to Davis Monthan where we were going to do the OT&E. There were 6 of us on the team plus Wally and Roger.
Our academic instruction was given by a civilian who had never seen an A-10. The academics were lacking in content and accuracy. After about an hour of not much instruction, Wally turned to me and said, “what do you think?” I said something like, “it’s a straight wing aircraft…can’t be too difficult, let’s go fly”. So we did.
I did a walk-around while asking a lot of questions, Wally helped me start it, I taxied for about 10 minutes, and gave Wally the thumbs up. He hopped into the other A-10 (there were no two-seaters at that time…actually, there were two built later but never bought) and off we went. I remember sitting at #1 and asked myself, “Do you know what the hell you’re doing? You’ve had no real academics in the A-10, etc, etc”. But by then we were rolling down the runway.
And it was easy to fly. First ride, 2 hours, my second ride was on the range firing the A-10’s 30mm cannon (I about wet my pants), the third ride I had to qualify bombs and strafe. That was also my check ride and my instructor pilot upgrade ride. I had 6 hours in the aircraft. Loved it!! 
A Great Place To Grow Up…
I was born in a very small cotton mill town in North Carolina called East Laurinburg. It was a great place to grow up as a kid. I did just about everything I shouldn’t, and since everyone knew everyone, I never got away with a thing. (Life is just not fair.) Eventually, I moved to Charlotte where I met my wife, Shelia. When we started dating she was 14 and I was 15. We ventured apart for a short while (during which I grew up), got back together and have been so ever since. We will be married 57 years in Sept ’17.
I went to N.C. State, graduating in Geological Engineering in January, 1962. I lived in fear that I would have to practice Geology, but fortunately, along came the Air Force
I Arrived for UPT in Big Spring, Texas in March of 1962 complete with wife and new son. I’d never been west of the Appalachian Mountains. With constant tutoring and I’m sure some adult babysitting by my IP, Mario J. Steffinelli (loved that man), I managed to graduate 1st in flying and somewhat short in academics but enough to earn an F-100 slot at Luke.
After my stint at survival school at Stead AFB, Reno, Nevada, I was off to Luke to train in the F-100 Super Sabre. Man, was that aircraft huge. Jim Kelm was my IP.  I still remember my first ride with him. As we were taxing out it started chugging. There was no way I was going to fly this obviously defective airplane. However, as you all know, that was “ops normal” for the Hun. I also flew with Les Frazier and ChoCho Corbett among others.
After Luke, I’m off to the UK for three glorious years in the 77th TFS, 20th TFW. For me, that was very, very maturing time.
I volunteered for Vietnam when my UK time was up and was fortunate to be assigned as a Buzzard in the 510th TFS at Bien Hoa. I flew 293 combat missions and only got hit 11 times. Then I was assigned to Nellis, supposedly to attend the F-100 Fighter Weapons School, only to learn upon arrival that it had been discontinued. I then got assigned to the 474th TFW to fly the new F-111. They only had a handful of aircraft.  After checkout, I was reassigned down the street to the 57FWW and the newly formed 422nd FWS in the operational test business where I spend the remainder of my 5 year Nellis tour.
After Nellis, I headed off to HQ, TAC in Fighter Requirements where I worked a number of aircraft projects including the A-X which eventually became the A-10. After 3 years in that very rewarding business, I was assigned to AFOTEC and to fly the A-10 at Davis-Monthan as part of the operational test and evaluation. After a year and a half doing OT&E on the A-10, I was off to Korea in the 314th Air Division as Chief of Weapons & Tactics. I thoroughly enjoyed this remote assignment and believe we did a lot of good things for and with the Koreans. They are great people and allies. I even liked the food there!
Fortunately, before my remote, I had worked a return assignment to DMAFB. I spent 5 more years at DMAFB, at the end of which I made Colonel and was reassigned to RAF Bentwaters as the DO. After about 8 months, one sunny day my Wing Commander, Dale Tabor called and casually asked if I would like to go to Torrejon as the 401st TFW Vice, flying F-16s. After a nano-second, I responded, “well, I believe I would (or something like that)”. At Torrejon, the 401st had just picked up F-16s replacing the F-4s. I thoroughly enjoyed TJ, the people, and the mission and without question, the F-16.
After a tad less than a year at Torrejon, I had a visit from the USAFE DO, Major General Bill Kirk who I knew from Nellis. He had bad news; Gen Minter the USAFE CC was retiring and the new CC was bringing in his own boys. He asked me where I wanted to go next and said he’d make it happen. I packed up the family and headed North back to the UK as the Vice of 3rd Air Force where I spent a couple more years. Then it was back to Langley as Chief of Armament and Avionics Requirements where we were working on the new air-to-air missile called AMRAAM. I retired in April 1989 after 27 great, great years.
We made a lot of good friends while I was in the Air Force and we keep in touch with many of them. I see them at reunions, and there are a number who live near us in Tucson, AZ (…but it’s a dry heat). I bore our civilian friends with my/our exploits in the Air Force. It was a wonderful and rewarding career.

Units - Education - Awards - Flight Info

Units Assigned

  • 1962-1963 UPT, Webb AFB, TX
  • 1963-1964 F-100 training, Luke AFB, AZ
  • 1964-1967 77th TFS, 20th TFW, RAF Wethersfield, UK
  • 1967-1968 510th TFS, 3rd TFW, Bien Hoa AB, Vietnam
  • 1968-1973 422nd FWS, 57th FWW, Nellis AFB
  • 1973-1976 HQ TAC, Fighter Requirements, Langley AFB
  • 1976-1977 AFOTEC A-10 OT&E Test Team,
  • 1977-1978 314th Air Division, Osan AB, Korea
  • 1978-1983 333rd TTS, 358th TTS, 355th TTW, Davis Monthan AFB, AZ
  • 1983-1984 81st TFW, RAF Bentwaters, UK, Director of Operations
  • 1984-1985 401st TFW, Torrejon AB, Spain, Vice Commander
  • 1985-1987 3rd AF, RAF Mildenhall, UK, Vice Commander
  • 1987-1989 Langley AFB, VA, HQ TAC, Chief of Fighter Armament & Avionics, Requirements

Retired in 1989

Awards & Decorations

 Distinguished Flying Cross
 Legion of Merit (2)
 Air Medal(15)

Flight Info

F-100 C/D/F – 1200 hours
F-111 A/E/D – 900 hours
A-10 A – 1715 hours
F-16 A – 135 hours
Total hours 4834

Military Education

SOS
Air Command & Staff College
AWC

Civilian Education

1962 BS, Geological Engineering, North Carolina State

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