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.
“I entered USAF Pilot Training via the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Illinois. At the time, I had no understanding or knowledge of the different types of aircraft and associated flying; I only knew I wanted to fly. By the end of the year of pilot training, I had become excited about flying fighter aircraft and received my first choice of assignments flying the F-100 Super Sabre. It was a real thrill to fly low and fast and learn all the various ways to hurl myself at the ground at 500 knots delivering ordinance on a target.
I flew about 1500 hours in the F-100D, including 310 combat sorties in Vietnam. After Vietnam, I was a T-38 Instructor Pilot for four years until the “Rated Supplement” program was launched, drastically reducing the number of Air Force flying jobs. I was then trained in Air Traffic Control and served the rest of my career flying desks with many telephones.
Following my USAF retirement in March ’86, I flew a United Express EMB120 “Bandit” out of Fresno, Ca. for 9 months in ’87 until hired by Continental Airlines in January ’88. There I flew Second Officer B-727, First Officer, and Captain B-737, all models. While based in Newark, NJ, I have vivid, unforgettable memories of watching 911 unfold in New York City, from my Newark crash-pad hotel room window.
I especially enjoyed my last 6 months flying Continental’s “Island Hopper” between Guam and Honolulu, until I was forced to retire 6 months early due to a bout with cancer in 2002. The cancer was successfully removed and has not returned, but it was too late for me to get back into the front seat of an airliner. So I learned to enjoy my second retirement and re-discovered the great game of golf while living the good Sun City lifestyle in Las Vegas. My wife of 47 years, Diane, and I also love taking cruises. After living in the desert for 33 years, in 2016, we moved closer to two of our three daughters who live in the Atlanta area.