Propeller at AirVenture!

I’m taking Monday off for the Memorial Day holiday in the US, but I wanted to let everyone know I was notified Friday that Arnold and I will be giving a presentation on “The Propeller under the Bed” at AirVenture in Oshkosh! We will be presenting on Saturday, August 3, 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM at the Forum Pavilion 08/NATCA J09. I hope to see all of you there!

And please remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.

F-100s in Turkey on Victor Alert

Although Arnold stayed in Greece for only three weeks, life at England AFB soon turned into a series of hectic rotations from the US to Europe, the middle East, and eventually Southeast Asia. The squadrons at England, along with other squadrons from Cannon AFB in New Mexico, deployed regularly to Incirlik, Turkey to participate as a maintenance officer in a Cold War mission known as “Victor Alert.” His first Victor Alert trip occurred in May1961, and his journey to Incirlik sounded more like  a cruise ship itinerary than a military deployment. Instead of flying an F-100 with in-flight refueling to his destination as he had at Foster, he traveled in the relative luxury of a large cargo plane, the C-124, with stops at Shaw AFB on the South Carolina coast, Kindley AFB in Bermuda, Lajes AFB in the Azores, Moron AFB in Spain, and Athens.

By the early 1960s, the Air Force had turned much of its fighter fleet into mini-bombers, the better to fight the “small wars” anticipated, and the F-100 was now capable of carrying a limited supply of nuclear weapons. At Incirlik, the Victor Alert mission consisted of four pilots and four F-100Ds laden with “tactical” Mark-28 1.1 kiloton nuclear weapons sitting on continuous alert. Another four F-100Ds were available for proficiency training. The pilots rotated shifts, pulling alert in a small trailer and sleeping in their flight gear. The routine was broken about once each week by a siren that sent the alert pilots scrambling to their jets. While the maintenance crews pulled safety pins and chocks, the pilots jumped into their cockpits, strapped in, and started the engines, not knowing until they were about to taxi that it was just for practice. Since Air Force rules did not allowed them to fly with the nuclear weapons on-board, they simply shut the engines back down again after being told it was just an exercise. The maintenance crews got a lot of practice topping of the F-100s with 20 or 30 gallons of fuel whenever an exercise occurred.

As the maintenance officer, Arnold didn’t have to sit alert, but instead flew airplanes after maintenance to make sure everything had been fixed before turning the airplane back to the alert crews. After a few weeks, the mission became a bit of a grind, and Arnold looked for some other things to do. The base at Incirlik had an aero club where non-pilots could theoretically learn to fly small airplanes. However, the club’s only working airplane was a Cessna 120 that no one knew how to fly. They also had a bush plane called a Beaver, but it was in pieces. The president of the club was an Air Force helicopter pilot in charge of the small search-and-rescue unit at Incirlik, and he decided to take advantage of Arnold’s status as a mechanic and civilian instructor to reinvigorate the dormant club. On the Fourth of July, the two would-be civilian pilots took the Cessna up to fly around the base and the neighboring countryside. The flight turned out to be the only one they took. Unhappy Turkish officials shut down the operation the next day, and Arnold and the helicopter pilot had to find something else to do in their spare time. However, there was one small side benefit for Arnold. To reward him for their brief Cessna fling, the helicopter pilot took him for his first helicopter flight on one of the unit’s Sikorsky H-19s.

Just as Arnold thought he was about to go home, the Cold War flared up. Since early June, the East German government had been stockpiling materials to build the Berlin Wall and on August 13, they shut down passage to the West. The wall began to go up and President Kennedy put the US military on high alert, including the mobilization of over 100,000 reservists. At the end of September, instead of flying back to the US, Arnold flew in a C-130 cargo aircraft to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany to join other F-100s in the Cold War stare-down.

F-100s at England AFB and More Deployments!

So now that Arnold had his airplane design, he went out and built it, right? Not exactly. For starters, the Air Force had other plans for him.

After graduating from Texas A&M the summer of 1960, Arnold and his family moved to England AFB in the central part of Louisiana, arriving just after the Fourth of July weekend.

Once again performing duties as a maintenance officer, Arnold was assigned to the maintenance squadron in the 401st Fighter Wing, but he was attached to 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron, for to maintain his flying proficiency and combat-ready status. Although many pilots would have groused about being in the maintenance squadron, for Arnold it was the best of all worlds. He loved overseeing the maintenance on the F-100s and as a bonus got more flying time than most of the other pilots – in addition to the flying he did to stay combat-ready, he had his pick of the maintenance test flights that occurred and also got to regularly ferry aircraft to and from a repair base in northern California, McClellan AFB.

Like his previous unit at Foster, the 613th spent much of the time on the road, and one month after he arrived in Louisiana, he deployed with his new unit to Greece for a NATO exercise. Before he left, he had to re-qualify in the F-100, which had undergone many changes in the two years he had been away. His first flight at England was in the new training version of the F-100, the “F” model, and shortly afterwards he checked out in the new “D” model. The biggest improvement in the F-100D was a set of flaps that helped to slow the airplane down for landing. Although a normal landing speed for the “C” model was nearly 200 mph, the “D” could land at a more pedestrian 170 mph, saving much wear and tear on both the airplane and the pilots.

Doesn’t look like there’s been any time so far for building airplanes …

Back to Engineering School as an Aggie

After returning from Mobile Zebra, Arnold found that the Air Force had accepted him to finish his degree, but like most things in the military, there was bad news along with the good. He had hoped to finish the degree at the University of Minnesota, but instead the Air Force had selected him to attend Texas A&M University in College Station. That wasn’t so bad, because College Station was only a short 3-hour move to the north, but the Air Force had also decided his major would be industrial engineering. Arnold had no idea what industrial engineering was, but it didn’t sound like it had anything to do with airplanes.

After doing some research, he found that industrial engineering involves optimizing manufacturing and repair processes. The Air Force had selected him for the program because of his background as a mechanic. He decided the degree would be okay – it was still a degree and maybe he could take some aeronautical engineering courses as electives.

The growing family moved to College Station in July 1958 – a pregnant-again Colleen, a toddler and an infant, a cat, and a Stinson 108, the family airplane. They found an apartment near the school, and Arnold began brushing the cobwebs off the differential equations, physics, and aerodynamics courses he had last taken eight years earlier. Fortunately, the Air Force program paid for two years of college, so he was essentially repeating his junior year.

He first had to figure out his class schedule, so he went to see his academic adviser, a military officer. When Arnold said he wanted to take some aeronautical engineering classes, the adviser said, “Take anything you want. Just take one industrial engineering class to make it look good.”

“You mean I can change my major?”

“Sure,” said the adviser, “but you will still be listed as a maintenance officer, not as an engineer. Are you okay with that?”

Of course. Engineer, pilot, mechanic – it was his dream come true.

Arnold’s new routine included classes during the week and flying on the weekends. To maintain his military proficiency and flight pay, on Saturdays he flew T-33s at Bergstrom AFB near Austin, about two hours north of College Station. On Sundays, he took the family flying in the Stinson.When his third daughter was born, he sold the Stinson and bought  a Cessna 170. He had planned to buy a different airplane from a dealer in San Antonio, but when they arrived to look at the airplane, Colleen spotted the Cessna 170 and decided she had to have it instead. The photo below was actually taken in 1961.

Colleen and Girls Plane 1961 July

The Family Cessna 170 with Colleen and Daughters (Kathleen, Eileen, Maureen)
(Arnold Ebneter Personal Collection)

Next week, I’ll start talking about the design of the E-1!