Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Hero Passes ...

Erich Schleier Jr. passed away in Dallas on August 5, at the age of 90.

Mr. Schleier joined the Army just prior to Pearl Harbor, and transferred into the Air Corps in February 1942. He trained as a B-24 pilot, and was assigned to the 436th Bomb Squadron, 7th Bomb Group in the China-Burma-India theater. He was recognized for developing bombing tactics for hard to hit Japanese targets such as railway lines and bridges.

After the war, he flew nuclear deterrent missions with SAC in B-47s and B-52s. He served as the Air Force's chief of flight testing at Boeing. He was assigned to the Presidential Flight Crew, flying Air Force One for both President Eisehhower and President Kennedy. He retired from the Air Force in 1966, and flew with United Airlines until retirement in 1985.

Col. Schleier was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with numerous Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetary with full military honors.

Godspeed, Colonel ...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lone Star Phantoms

Back in the heyday of the F-4, Texas was home to 11 squadrons of Phantoms. These units were comprised of Navy and Marine Reserves, Texas Air National Guard, active duty USAF, and USAF Reserves.

NAS Dallas was home to VF-201, VF-202, and VMFA-112. Carswell AFB housed the 457th TFS. Kelly AFB had the 182nd TFS. Ellington ANGB had the 111th FIS. Bergstrom AFB was home to both the 704th TFS and the 67th TRW.

Based at Navy Dallas, the VF-201 'Hunters' flew the F-4N and F-4S models of the Phantom, prior to converting to the F-14 in 1987. -201 moved to NAS Ft. Worth when NAS Dallas closed, converted to the F-18 Hornet, and finally disestablished due to budget cuts in 2006.

F-4N 152244, VF-201's CAG bird, showing spectacular markings on the Hunter's flightline in 1978.

VF-201 F-4S 155732, seen landing on NAS Dallas RW17 in 1986. The dull grey of TPS (Tactical Paint Scheme) was effective during air to air combat, but certainly wasn't as pretty to look at as the F-4N above!

VF-202 'Superheats' flew the F-4N and then F-4S models, alongside its VF-201 sister squadron at Dallas. It also converted to the F-14 in 1987. VF-202 disestablished in 1994 at NAS Dallas, a victim of budget cuts.

Superheats' F-4N 153056 showing the Navy's colorful paint style of the '70s. NAS Dallas ramp in 1978.

VF-202 F-4S 153779 about to touchdown on RW17, NAS Dallas 1986. Note freshly applied TPS with off-white trim. TPS was so drab those days that we photographers got very excited at this little bit of white appearing on the jets!

VMFA-112 'Cowboys' flew the F-4J, F-4N, and then F-4S Phantoms out of NAS Dallas. The Cowboys converted to the F-18A in 1991, and moved to NAS Ft. Worth when Dallas closed down. -112 now flies the F-18A+, still flying out of Ft. Worth.

Cowboys' F-4J 153841 landing after a local mission at Dallas in 1984.

VMFA-112's F-4S 155524 pulling up on departure from RW35 in early 1991. -112 was on its way to NAS Key West for its last remote Det. while flying the Phantom. By December of 1991, this jet would be retired to the Tucson desert.

The 457th Fighter Squadron, USAF Reserve, flew the F-4D and F-4E models out of Carswell AFB until 1991, when they converted to the F-16C. Still located at what is now NAS Ft. Worth, the 'Spads' continue to fly FY 85 and 86 F-16s.

457TFS, 301TFW F-4D 68-8734 sitting on their ramp during 1987. This particular Phantom shot down a NVAF MiG-21 on May 10, 1972. -734 was transferred tot he South Korean Air Force after its 457th service was over.

F-4E 68-0497 at the north arming area at Carswell AFB in 1990. This jet is carrying a Pave Spike laser designator pod, along with 2 Maverick training rounds. -497 was transferred to the Turkish Air Force in 1991.

The 704th Fighter Squadron, 924th Fighter Group flew F-4Ds and F-4Es out of Bergstrom AFB in Austin, the converted to the F-16A before that base shut down and the unit disbanded. The 704th was known for its unique 'cloud' camoflage applied to some of its grey F-4Ds and F-4Es.

704TFS F-4D 66-7762 departing the arming area for the runway, launching for a local traiing flight out of Bergstrom AFB in 1988. This jet ended up being transferred to the South Korean Air Force.

Wearing the unit's unique 'cloud' pattern camoflage, F-4E 74-1040 seen at the departure end of Bergstrom's runway in 1990. This jet was serving at the unit's commander's 'flagship', with "924TFG" highlighted on the tail. 74-1040 retired to the Tucson boneyard in 1991, and was resurrected to serve as a QF-4 target drone.

The 67th Reconnaisance Wing flew the RF-4C recon Phantom out of Bergstrom AFB until the base closed. The Wing was composed of two operational squadrons, the 12th and 91st, and two training units, the 45th and 62nd. The 67th's ramp was a site to see back in the heyday, with up to 100 RF-4s sitting in the hot Texas sun.

RF-4C 68-0548, serving as the 67TRW Commander's flagship, seen here at last chance prior to a 1990 mission out of Bergstrom.

RF-4C 68-0555 taxiing out of the ramp to the runway for an August 1992 local mission. 2 weeks later, the squadron would disband, marking an end to active duty USAF RF-4 operations. The 12th's fin cap color was orange. Jets that deployed for Desert Storm had the squadron nickmname 'Blackbirds' written in script on the fin cap. After Desert Storm, the 'Tactical' was dropped from squadron designations, so the 12th became the 12th Recon Squadron, hence the '12RS' commander's markings ont he tail. 68-0555 was eventually converted to a QRF-4C drone, and was shot down on April 1, 1997.

RF-4C 67-0435, 45TRTS (Tactical Recon Training Squadron), one of two RF-4 training units at Bergstrom. the 45th's colors were a blue fin cap with white polka dots. The 45th was inactivated in 1989 as the need for RF-4 training drew down.

63-7757, a very old RF-4 indeed, leads a gaggle of its 62TRTS squadron mates at Bergstrom in 1985. Shortly after this, grey camoflage started to appear. The 62nd TRTS' colors were a gold fin cap. The 62nd deactivated at the end of 1989, transferring all RF-4 training to the Idaho ANG.

RF-4C 66-0427 being checked over at last chance prior to an August 1990 mission out of Bergstrom. The 91TRS squadron colors were a red fin cap with white polka dots. The 91st stood down at the end of August 1991.

The 111th Fighter Squadron, 147th Fighter Wing, Texas ANG, flew the F-4C and F-4D models out of Ellington ANGB in Houston until they transitioned to the F-16A in 1989. The unit has since converted to the F-16C (1996), and now is without aircraft, 'flying' the Predator drone since June of 2008.

Proudly wearing the inscription 'Texans' on the fuselage, 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron F-4C 64-0865 taxiing back to its ramp at the conclusion of a 1985 practice sortie. Note the puddles on the taxiway - leftovers from one of the common afternoon Houston heat/humidty showers. The 111th converted from the F-101 Voodoo to the F-4C in 1981, and then to the F-4D in 1987. This beautifully marked Phantom was retired to the desert, and finally scrapped in 1996.

F-4D 66-0280, 111FIS, 147FIG, at Ellington in 1988. This aircraft scored a MiG kill during the Vietnam war, the kill star is on the intake.

The last unit in our review is the 182nd Fighter Squadron, 149th Fighter Wing. This Texas ANG squadron is based at Kelly AFB in San Antonio. It's Phantom years consisted of only the F-4C model, which they flew from 1979 to 1986, when the transitioned to the F-16A. The unit now flies the F-16C out of Lackland AFB (formerly Kelly AFB).

F-4C 63-7431, 182TFS, 149TFG, taxiing out for a local training mission in 1985.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Alaska C-17 Lost

An Alaska based C-17A crashed this past Wednesday afternoon (Jun 28), shortly after takeoff from its home at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage. Some reports I've seen have it on a normal training mission, others have said it was up starting practice for an upcoming airshow demonstration. The 4 crewmembers died in the crash.

C-17A 00-0173 was assigned to the 517th Airlift Squadron, 3rd Wing. It was shared by the 249th Airlift Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard. The crew was a mixture of the two units.

Even with a fairly new, state of the art aircraft, military flying is dangerous - even the normal traiing flights.

Below, 00-0173 seen in happier times, while assigned to the 62AMW out of McChord AFB. Seen taking off after a stopover at Rhein-Mein AB (Frankfurt) in 2003.

Top Photo credit: USAF

Bottom Photo credit: yours truly