Robert L. Dunham, Jr.
Bob “Ranger” Dunham considered his best jobs to be:
#1 1Lt flying F-100s in 90th TFS
#2 Active duty Maj flying F-100s with ANG
After retiring from the USAF in 1990, Bob began working for COMAIR Metro III from June until September of 1990. He then went on to fly for TWA until April of 2001, and then with American Airlines until July of 2003 when he retired.
Robert L. Dunham, Jr (LtCol USAF, Ret) Headed West on May 31, 2014
He attended the Air Force Academy where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering, in 1966. Robert had a distinguished career, including 1LT flying F-100s in 90th TFS and another being Active Duty Major flying F-100s with ANG. He retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Col, 05 USAF after 24 years of military service. He also worked for 13 years in the Airline Industry with TWA/American Airlines, retiring in 2003. He was involved in the organization; Friends of the Super Sabre Society an organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of the F-100, which he proudly flew!
He is survived by his wife, Pamela Ann of Georgetown, Texas; three sons: Aubrey Dunham and wife Stephanie of Boca Raton, Florida, Tobin Dunham and wife Kelly of Bandera, Texas, Hardin Dunham and wife Angela of College Station, Texas; two grand-daughters: Sabina Dunham and Sara Gendron and one grandson; Raiden Dunham; one sister; Bettye Dunham; one step-sister; Suzie Dunham and Step-mother; Nona Dunham.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the FSS – Friends of the Super Sabre at www.FriendsoftheSuperSabre.org.
A memorial service with Military Honors was held on Thursday, June 5, 2014, at Ramsey Funeral Home in Georgetown, Texas.
7/1966-7/1967 3601st PTS, Reese AFB, TX (T-41, T-37, T-38)
7/1967-4/1968 481st TFS, Cannon AFB, NM (F-100)
4/1968-4/1969 90th TFS, Bien Hoa AB, RVN (F-100)
4/1969-4/1972 3615th PTS, Craig AFB, AL (T-38)
4/1972-10/1974 522nd TFS, Cannon AFB, NM (F-111A/E/D)
11/1974-12/1976 21stTASS/1/75 Inf (Ranger), Ft. Stewart, GA (O-2)
1/1977-6/1979 Hq 12th AF/IG, Bergstrom AFB, TX (F-100)
6/1979-6/1983 ADWC/TE, Tyndall AFB, FL (F/QF-100)
6/1983-12/1988 HQ 17th AF/DOY//8th ID, Sembach AB/Bad Kreuznach, GE
12/1988-6/1990 712 ASOC, Bergstrom AFB, TX
8/31/1990 Retired USAF
Awards & Decorations
MD80 (not Super 80)
Military & Civilian Education
- 1966 BS Civ Engr, USAF Academy CO (that explains the rest)
- 1964 US Army Jump School, Ft Benning, GA
- 1971 IPIS – Randolph AFB, TX
- 1972 SOS
- 1974, 1983, 1987 USAF AGOS, Hurlburt Fld, FL
- 1975 MAC Combat Control School, Little Rock AFB, AR
- 1976 ACSC
- USAFE AGOS, NATO AGOS
- 1986 ICAF-NSM
- None (that explains a lot – says Bob)
- 1962 Union Springs High School
Robert L. Dunham-Caterpillar Story
On 24 Feb 1978, 1009 EST, a flight of three F-100s from the 181st TFG departed Hulman Field, Terre Haute, IN for a local training mission. The mission was briefed as an air support tactics and low-level training on TR779 Low-Level Route. The flight entered the Low-Level Route less than 5 minutes after takeoff.
The lead element moved to tactical route formation at 1,000′ AGL and 335 KIAS. After one tactical turn and evasion maneuver, the Lead noticed white vapor trailing from Two. Seven to ten seconds later, Two called that he had both a Fire Light and an Overheat Light illuminated. Two to three seconds later, the vapor turned to black smoke then to visible flames. Lead transmitted confirmation of the fire and told Two: “You are on fire, get out.” Two acknowledged and ejected. A total of 10 seconds had elapsed since the first indication of a problem.
From the cockpit, I felt and heard a “thump” that led me to believe I had hit a bird. I turned left to check the wing, and when I swept through the cockpit to check the right wing, I noticed the Fire and Overheat lights were both ON. I made the initial radio call then. I saw the oil pressure decrease rapidly to zero, and other engine instruments start to unwind, so I made the decision to eject.
My plan was to stay “eyes wide open” to watch the whole ejection sequence, but I soon found that the “G” forces and windblast were more than I had anticipated. The Ejection System was equipped with the DART Snubber modification and a ballistic drogue chute in the parachute. I initiated the ejection at about 1,000′ AGL and with something over 300 KIAS. I didn’t zoom, as I decided airspeed and time were better than altitude as I didn’t know what was next for the airframe. BAD decision.
I placed my feet in the stirrups, sat erect, and pulled the handles. When the rocket fired and the windblast hit, I thought it would break my legs under the seat – it was pretty strong. My first real recollection was in free-fall waiting for the opening shock of the chute. I noticed something flailing out of my right peripheral vision. I reached out and gathered it in, only to realize it was my right leg and combat boot. That occurred about the time of opening shock, so I was left holding my leg with my right hand and trying to steer the chute with only my left.
Analysis of the seat showed that the DART snubber system worked properly through the line play out. However, the Development Test Report of the DART Snubber system states that “at approximately 300 KIAS, the seat will reach the end of the lanyards and the “dummy” will not completely separate from the seat. In my case, this proved to be true. The seat hit the end of the lanyards, the lap belt had opened, so there was not enough weight in the seat to break the frangible links, yet the butt snapper had not (yet) fired to get me away from the seat. The left snubbing lanyard held as advertised, but the right lanyard failed to hold, causing the seat to do a snap roll to the left.
With my right foot held firmly in the stirrup, the seat snapped my right femur just below the hip joint, leaving a length of about 10″ of bone shards no bigger than a thumbnail. Yet the skin was never broken and no blood was lost.
Once I achieved touchdown in the chute – FAH (foot, ass, head), I was so relieved to be safely on the ground. The weather was cold, with about two feet of snow on the plowed field. I let the chute drag me for about 100 yards before jettisoning the canopy.
I was picked up by local civilians and carried to the highway where they put me on a stretcher and laid me in the middle of the road. That was the first moment of fear – because I just knew I would be run over by a truck by lying there. My recollection to that point was no pain, just a lot of adrenaline.
I was taken to Jewett, IL, hospital for an initial medical evaluation and then transported to Chanute AFB by ambulance. I was to become very familiar with the Chanute AFB Hospital, as I spent 5 months there in traction and learned to put up with my hospital roommate – Ted Turza.
As for the airplane – it was a smoking hole. It turned out that the engine developed a cracked weld in the Number 7 nozzle cluster that allowed hot air to stream out under the fuel-oil cooler, initiating the fire and releasing fuel into the lower engine compartment. – Robert Dunham