CLAIMS TO FAME:
This section is devoted to notable, and sometimes humorous, claims to have done something that no else has done (at least in their right mind). It also highlights some of the outstanding recognized feats of helicopter pilot's accomplishments in decades past.
Old Question of the Day:
Who is the Oldest member of USAFHPA?
Ed Stevens, one of our newest members was born in October 2, 1916. He was drafted 19 May 1941. He lives in Lakeland Florida. That makes him our oldest member. (Orlando 2006) *(Ed passed away in 2013).
Frank Kelley checked in with 18 August 1921 birth date *(Frank passed away in 2013).
We will have to search for our next oldest member.
Who was first member to check out in helicopters?
It appears the earliest checkout goes to Walter Riley Jr. who received his checkout on March 26, 1946 at
Joe Barrett became
Rotary wing qualified at
Ed Stevens, Sr. was checked out in April, 1947.
New question of the Day
Who was the first helicopter pilot to enter the Military?
Val Don Hickerson lays claim to 16 Nov 1943.
Grant Bird - I'm afraid I'll have to trump Val Don Hickerson
on the "earliest to enter the military". I enlisted in the Army
Air Corps at 18 in Joplin,
all of you on the new Website and Newsletter. Obviously, a lot of work went
into this classy project. An old dinosaur like me really appreciates your
labors. I'm delighted to see that a young friend, Syd
Gurley, is 1st Vice Chairman. I'm too old and obsolete to know the other
If Ken Hatton was a USMC Pfc searching for Amelia Earheart in a 1937 Air/Sea Rescue Mission, that makes him the earliest to enter the military. See his “Claim to Fame” below.
past Newsletter in the section "This From The Past
" we stated that the USAF H-19s were taken out of service in 1964. WOW ! Did we ever get some feedback on that incorrect date. First, let me tell you all where that information came
from. We looked at web site www.afa.org/magazine/gallery/h-19.html and extracted that date. We were suspicious of the date but
decided to put it out and see if someone would take up on it.
Don Dair in Hampton,
Lawrence (LD) Jones from Plymouth, N.C. was stationed at Sheppard AFB in the sixties and says that in April, 1968 all the H-19s were flown in a group (could that be a gaggle ?) from Sheppard to the bone yard at DM. As the last one in the flight to land and taxi in, he is laying a Claim-To-Fame to being the last pilot to fly an active duty USAF H-19. According to his logbook the date was 20 April 1968.
Ashley at Navarre Bch.,
Fl. said he was C.O. of a Det. at
Mike Armstrong - his last H-19 flight (stateside) was 10 March 1970.
Stan Stamps - claims to be the last to fly an H19 in
George Durham -claims the last operational H-19 to be at
"How High the Sky?"
be outdone if his first Claim doesn't fly,(pun intended),
LD Jones submits this
"While stationed at Luke AFB in the late 1950s, I used to be asked quite often how high I had flown a helicopter. I had never thought much about it, but since I got tired of being asked and not having an answer, I decided to find out. By this time our 4 H-19s had been traded for 4 H-21s. Early one morning I got two walk-around oxygen bottles and our smallest crew chief, cranked up an H-21, pulled in the collective and left it there. At maximum altitude our airspeed was 35 kts. Any faster and it would descend, and any attempt to reduce speed to gain additional altitude resulted in mushing and a loss of altitude. After several minutes at max altitude, during which time an F-100 flew past our nose, I was satisfied and descended back to Luke. I hereby submit the claim as the only pilot to fly an H-21 to 20,000 feet."
Hall --I will try for one in an H-19. (1966). We
had previously done some "high altitude" photography of the auxiliary
In my "later" years (1973), flying UH-1F's at Malmstrom, we flew "security" circles around convoys transporting missiles to a site. B-0-0-R-I-NG ! I decided if a couple thousand feet was good for surveillance then why not, say, 5,000? Then, why not 10? As I got higher I kept checking my fingernails to see if they were turning blue. Without supplemental oxygen and the Huey still climbing like a "bat" I figured it might go to the moon. So at 16,000' MSL, I decided to "come back to earth".
– While stationed in the
Canal Zone, SouthCom laid on a potential mission to
recover crash victims from about the 18,000 foot level on a mountainside near
Willis "Joe" Kusy, and friend George Hicks, created the "Ten Commandments for Helicopter Flying". Joe was also instrumental in obtaining the Sikorsky CH-3 for the USAF. (see his story in Outstanding Persons Page)
Charles O. (Charlie) Weir - started flying helicopters in 1944 and claims to be the first helicopter pilot to go through test pilot school at Wright Field in 1945. He claims over 1000 hours in three different choppers, R/H-5, H-19 & H-21. His most impressive claim is to have flown approximately 45 types of helicopters including Tri-motored co- axials, twin engine laterally opposed rotors, etc., etc., etc.
Capt. Lawrence Barrett and Lt. R. Sullivan flew more that 100 miles behind North Korean lines in Jan. 1953 to rescue a downed F-51 pilot.
Doug Armstrong - My claim to fame is that I bailed out of a helicopter without a parachute and survived without a scratch. No, I was not sitting on the ground. Gary AFB, Texas, July 1, 1954, H-13 had an engine failure over a lake south of the field. I tried to autorotate across the valley to a road but hit wires crossing the valley. The bubble burst and the wires broke off the rotor blades. At 50 feet and 50 knots I bailed out and into the lake. When I got to the surface, the helicopter was upside down on the bottom. Glad that I didn't have to swim to the shore with it strapped to my back.
Ferry - Official Record -
still holds world's distance record for helicopters set on April 6-7, 1966 by a
coast-to-coast non-stop, non-refueled flight in a YOH-6A flying from Culver
City, CA to Ormond Beach, FL. The distance was 2136 miles and was flown at
altitudes up to 24,000'.
1. The only pilot who got lost while hovering.
2. Longest rearward flight - San Diego to San Clemente, CA. (About 60 miles)
3. First helicopter pilot to shoot down another aircraft. Howard Field, 1949, shot down an OQ-3
4. Only pilot to fly 3 XV type aircraft. Also flew the XV 9A hot cycle.
5. First pilot to do a power off reconversion in a convertiplane. (XV-3 Tilt Rotor - 1959)
6. First pilot to do a full auto rotation in a Huey (XH-40) with a dead engine and no autorotation practice in that aircraft. (1957)
7. First pilot to get blamed for the USAF purchase of the H-43.
8. Most sideward flight time. Three months of Apache flight tests and two tours at the
9. Only pilot to do a zoom chop full autorotation. Cut power at high speed on the deck, climb to 500 feet and do a 720 turn and landing all power off.
10. Luckiest helicopter pilot.
John C. Flournoy
Sr. - who was Bob
Ferry's co-pilot on most of his lost (temporarily disoriented) flights:
Flew an H-43 from
Picked up a downed H-43 from the Greenland ice cap and delivered it via another H-43 to the deck of the USCG icebreaker Southwind, (Thule- 1967). Planned and developed (Scott AFB), tested (Chanute AFB), installed and operationally employed the first and only "smokeless fire pit" for USAF H-43 training at
most different models of helicopters.. I would
like to submit the
following: H-19, H-21, H-34, HH-43B, HH-43F, UH-1D, UH-1F, HH-1H, UH-1N, UH-1P,
Model 412 (four bladed N), CH-3C, CH-3E, HH-3E, HH-53, HH-53H,
HH-53J, UH-60, MH-60, and HH-60. (That's 20)
On my fini flight at Hurlburt in 1988 I got to take off in the H-60, land and switch to the H-53, and land and finish up in the H-3. What a great day!
Jim Lamoreaux. Most time in the H-43: I checked my "Form 5" just recently and found that I have 3452 hours of H-43 time, H-43A & H-43B combined. I flew them in the last eleven years I was in the Air Force. Looking forward to the next reunion. See you there.
Jack Zimmerman - Member of the first class of Army Air Corps helicopter
pilots. Trained at Freeman Field,
Two Air Force crews, Capts. Vincent
McGovern and Harry
Jeffers, and Capt. George Hembrick and Lt. Harold Moore flying two H-19's nicknamed "Hopalong
and Whirl-0-Way", made the first crossing of the
Don Alford - Flew a helicopter non-stop from
Kyron (K.V.) Hall - most helicopter pilot flight time while on active duty USAF - 7800 hours. Over 2000 hours in three different helicopters, H-19, H-21, and H-3.
Aircraft Commander on longest over-water rescue by land based helicopter,
(AAC), 450 miles at sea south of
William E. Zins was the first helicopter pilot to become a fighter squadron commander. (92nd Fighter Sq. Wheeler Field Hawaii, 1947-1950)
Ken Hatton claims to have been on the very first Air/Sea rescue mission on July 4th to 18th, 1937. He was searching the south Pacific for Amelia Earhart while a USMC Pfc.
Vern Dander of Highlands Ranch,
Last operational USAF H-21 flight in Japan. Jan. 28, 1960 ferry flight from Det. 3, 24th HELRON to JSFD on north side of Tokyo bay. Only pilot to "successfully" accomplish an in- flight reconfiguration of an H-21 from tri-cycle to bicycle gear. Success means shutting down engine and rotors without ground contact. Sept. 14, 1959.
Most flying time as active duty USAF pilot in the Hughes TH-55 - 204 hours. Most flying time as USAF active duty pilot in the Hughes OH-6A- 72.4 hours.
Longest time between carrier landings on the same carrier. 14 years, 1 month -
Only Naval Academy representative in a combat helicopter
squadron with members from 4 of the 5 service academies. 37th ARRS
Best USAF active duty Helicopter assignment. Production test pilot, Hughes AFPRO, Palomar Airport, Carlsbad, CA 1966 - 1967. (The only drawback was having to listen to war stories told by ex-"Naval Service" company pilots).
Armstrong - Well, Vern, I have to dispute that last one. I was
stationed at a Gunnery range on the beaches of southern
Francis "Blackie" Carney, in October 1961, set a new official altitude record of 32, 840 feet in an HH-43B. He also set 3 new "time to climb" records.
Johnson flew an H-19 from
Brake claims to be the
first H-3E pilot to receive
Ron Ingraham claims an earlier
incident. Upon return to
Fred Gregory was the first USAF Helicopter Pilot to upgrade into a space vehicle. Fred flew H-43's at Vance AFB and DaNang SVN and UH-1F at Whiteman. After completing fixed wing school, he was assigned to fly F-4's at DM. Fred was assigned to the Flight Test Wing at Wright-Patt flying various fixed and rotary wing aircraft until selected for Astronaut Training in 1978. He went on to become the first black American to pilot the space shuttle and was aircraft commander on 2 more shuttle flights acquiring over 455 hours in space. He later rose to NASA Deputy Administrator.
Don Carty - first USAF pilot to fly the X025A Benson Gyrocopter that
now hangs in the
Carl Damonte - Project pilot, CH-3C III Test Program, 1964-65, Patrick AFB, FL. First USAF pilot to log 1,000 hours in the H-3 helicopter. ARRS Project pilot for "Operation Fast Gas", H-3 Air Refueling Test Program at Wright-Patterson AFB.
John Holt - Shot down near DMZ in Laos, Feb 1969, in HH-3 on last helicopter sensor mission of Vietnam War.
DFC for saving 2 Navy pilots in Feb night snowstorm at 11,000 feet on side of
"Wild" Bill Lyell flew the first YH-40 (H-1) in January of 1958. Checked out Gen. Curtis Lemay in H-13.
Jim Richardson, Andy Archer and Dick Van Allen have flown the most H-1 models.- UH-1B, UH-1C, UH-1D, UH-1F, AH-1G, UH-1H, UH-1N, UH-1P.
Rich Blackwell has most military H-1 time - 4,506 hours.
Bob Suhrheinrick has total of military and civilian (Petroleum Helicopters) H-1 time -10,675 hours.
Donald Van Meter - Most different
models of helicopters flown (12) - (ie. Start,
take-off and land at the controls), H-19B, H-21B, H-43A, H-43B, H-43F, Mi4A(
Allen stakes his claim to
the longest un-refueled HH-43B flight, 5 hours 55 minutes. It was in July 1965
from Central Laos to an area west of the Black River in
Leron Allred claims a first to recover from a student induced snap roll in a UH-1F in 1970 at Sheppard AFB, TX. The student was practicing recoveries from unusual attitudes while "under the hood" instrument training and went full cyclic in the wrong direction. "Viewing the world upside down in a helicopter is a sight I'll never forget".
Ray Dunn reports that Harry Dunn's claim of being Ray's dad is false and should be deleted.
Caldwell claims to be the first USAF helicopter pilot to land
on the deck of a Navy destroyer using the "bear trap haul down
system". This was done off
also claims to be the last pilot to fly a YH-5.
"I flew #620 from Eglin to Wright-Patterson in April 1955 where she now
resides in the
West has a claim that tends to shake one up a bit. He crashed on
his first combat mission in
Marty Donohue was first to hook up to a C-130 for air refueling with a Gemini capsule in tow. First to abort the refueling because of a rather nerve racking oscillation. Sep 68.
Ron Ingaham was AC on one of 2 H-19's that completed first night over water rescue of 93 people at Lake Marion, S.C., March 26, 1955.
Lemke and Joe Phelan , in an HH-43F, made
the first combat land hoist pickup over
Al Deviney, Don Walker, Skip Cowell,
Billy Wingfield, Keith Droegemeier,
K.V. Hall, Stu Silver and Doyle Krauss, claim to have killed more mule deer (legally) in
Jack McTasney claims he is the only USAF Member to make two open sea landings in one night to pick up Navy A-6 Pilots. Also claims to have crashed twice in the Ashau. The first was his own battle damaged HH-3, the second time the HH-3 that picked him up went down on take-off. Guess the third bird was the charm.
Ed Stevens, flew 35 combat missions over
How about a high altitude
heavyweight landing? While deployed to
Dick Ledoux - I'm the only guy as pilot in command
to launch a 147 drone off the wing of a C-130A, land the C-130 and then get in
a CH-3 as pilot in command and catch the same drone. (They call them
"UAV's" now!) I did this back in the late 1960's out at Pt.
Bob Blough, First (and last?) AF pilot to land an H-53 on a USN Destroyer Escort (3 wheels on the deck w/ 50% p0wer) with 34 Marines aboard, at night, with the ship underway. (Gulf of Thailand, May 1975) “Your rotor blades were 15 FREAKING INCHES from the superstructure!” I may have bent the helipad, but they never sent me a bill!
Don Eastman – First helicopter pilot to make a hookup with CH-3C Air Refueling probe to a C-130 tanker aircraft refueling drogue on Dec 15, 1965. Conducted Air Refueling tests on CH/HH-3 and HH-53 while Test Pilot at Wright-Patterson AFB. Also Water Landing tests to establish parameters for CH-3C with refueling probe.
Robert Sullivan and Don Crabb
were on standby on Cho-do
Island, 12 April 1953, when they were scrambled by the local radar station.
Five miles northeast of the island they spotted a chute coming down and headed
towards it. They dropped the hoist cable and picked up the pilot in an open
water rescue moments after his feet touched the
Merle Panzer – Total Helicopter Flying hours (military and civilian) – 18,629. Honorable Discharge from US Navy, US Army and US Air Force.
Grant Mackie – Claims the record for the most
rescues via rescue hoist in one day, a total of 37. This took place on
Paul Ashley – Claims to have made the first HH-3E
night refueling during an Operational
Richard A. Smith – The only Air Force helicopter pilot
Rich Blackwell - I'll throw this one out there.
In July 1972, I "landed" a TH-1F at 11,400 ft in the high Uinta Mountains in Utah to pick up an injured hiker. Although relatively level, there was not a suitable landing area. I established a low hover, but due to limited tail rotor effectiveness, we could not load the injured hiker. By resting one skid against a large rocky area we were able to stabilize the aircraft and complete the pickup. I don't recall my copilot, but the FE was Sgt Tommy Kitchens. We were assigned to the 1550th at Hill AFB, Utah at the time.
(This file Updated March 5, 2014)
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