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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

F-104's etc.
Today I received this month's Barnstormer's Eflyer. David Rose has a wonderful story about flying F-104's and Tom Delashaw. See www.Barnstormers.com for a link. His story reminded me of a post I wrote to the "Yak-list" (see www.Matronics.com) when Tom was killed a few years ago in a Hawker Hunter. Here it is.

From: "Jerry Painter" <wild.blue(at)verizon.net>
Subject: Tom Delashaw
Date: Jul 24, 2003

The death of a fellow airman is always a sad event, but for some reason
the death of Tom Delashaw strikes a particular chord. I never met Tom.
I never saw him fly. I don't know why they called him "Sharkbait,"
something from his military career, I suspect. Maybe its because he
flew F-104's, the absolute top of my airplane wish list, that I feel a
connection with him.

Today, airplanes are taken for granted by everyone, they're nothing
special. So we complain about FAA frufra, TFR's, delays, security
checks, lost bags and all the bureaucratic minutia that accompanies
flying, particularly on the airlines. When I was growing up in the
pre-jet-airliner 50's, flying could still be dangerous, particularly
military and test flying, and even airline travel was considered a bit
daring, to say nothing of expensive and fairly unusual. I kept up to
date (as much as a schoolboy can) on the latest X-planes, fighters and
bombers and read the same books and magazines from the school and public
libraries over and over again. I've seen "Strategic Air Command" and
all the other movies countless times. Russ Schleeh (record-setting B-47
pilot--the model for Jimmy Stewart's movie?--and unlimited hydroplane
driver) was one of my heroes. I had Green's and Jane's just about
memorized. I built hundreds of models and even had a "hobby shop" in
the basement to supply me and my friends with the special model stuff we
couldn't get otherwise. I knew all about Chuck Yeager, Pete Everest,
Ivan Kincheloe, Bob Hoover, Scott Crossfield, Eddie Allen, Bill Dana,
Bob White and all the other gods in the pantheon of test pilots. I even
had some of their autographs. They were what I wanted to be. They were
my heroes. I suspect many of you may have felt the same.

So, Tom Delashaw's death leaves me deeply saddened. But he didn't die
in an F-104. He died flying a Hawker Hunter, a jet from the days when
the British were still contenders in the aviation race. Hunters are
still standard equipment at many test pilot schools because of their
spin characteristics, among other things, and to my eye, beautiful
airplanes, but nothing like the F-104's Delashaw flew that drew my
attention to him. F-104's deserved their sobriquet of "the missile with
a man in it" and are the most extreme of the Century Series. Absolutely
gorgeous airplanes. They look like they're doing mach 2 parked on the
ramp. Nothing else can match their look of pure single-minded
aeronautical purpose--speed, speed, speed. You could seriously injure
yourself if you bumped against their leading edges because they are so
sharp they had to have protective covers. I have a cherished picture of
an NF-104 on my wall, climbing nearly vertically, rocket lit, on its way
to the neighborhood of 100,000 ft. I would love to be the pilot in that
airplane. But for pilots that didn't receive proper training or pay
proper respect, they were killers.

What I have read of Tom indicated he was a pro among pros, a man who had
earned his spurs (yes, F-104 pilots wear spurs for the ejections eats),
a veteran of combat and many hours in F-104's, a man who was
meticulously methodical around airplanes, especially the F-104, an
airplane that killed far too many good pilots, including Ivan Kincheloe.
He was the kind of pilot I still want to be, a man I could respect and

It is ironic that Tom should die in a relatively benign airplane like a
Hunter, a pussycat compared to an F-104. I know nothing of the cause of
the accident, but doubt carelessness played a factor. When someone like
Tom is killed it reminds me that airplanes are still dangerous, not
always trustworthy, that you can still be killed even when you have
taken every precaution. Those of us flying "experimental" airplanes
especially, without benefit of much in the way of documentation,
training, FAA, military or factory support or "supervised" experience,
sometimes to the airplanes' limits and with modifications of dubious
airworthiness, have to be especially cautious. Sometimes it feels like
this Yak-list and fellow pilots and mechanics are about all we've got to
lean on. And sometimes you have to wonder about them, too. Nobody
should die in an airplane. I can't think of many worse ways to die.
But some of us probably will, even though we've taken "every
precaution," or think we have. Doing what we love won't make it any
easier or more pleasant.

Blue skies, Tom.

And let's be careful out there.

Jerry Painter

10:02 am pdt

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Let's go Flyin'!
If you've noticed my "Reno" pages you may have figured out that every year a bunch of us get together to go to the races. Well, that's just a taste! We got lotsa places to go, things to do and folks to meet.

Here's a short list of some of the places and events on the schedule. You're invited so mark your calendar!

May 16 Paine Field (PAE) GA day w/warbirds!
May 20-26 "Aluminum Overcast" B-17 at BFI--rides!
June 12-14 Bellanca-Champion Fly-in Columbia, CA
June 12-14 Golden West Fly-in, Yuba City, CA
June 20-21 Olympia Warbird Show, Olympia, WA
July 8-12 Arlington Fly-in
July 27-Aug 2 Oshkosh
August 21-22 Madras, OR Fly-in
August 22 Tillamook, OR Fly-in
Sept 16-20 Reno Air Races

'Course we do lotsa little fly-outs to wherever strikes our fancy, like real short field training at real short fields. Mountain flying to real mountains (the Cascades, Siskiyous and Olympics are not little baby hills, dontcha know!) Plus lotsa $100 burgers. Lotsa seminar stuff, too! Drop me an email and I'll put you on the list for event notification. Stand by for news!

3:03 pm pdt

Back on line
If you're one of those loyal folks who checks my web site every now and then you may have noticed that things haven't changed much for a while. That's because your and my favorite phone company/web site provider managed to booger the works so I couldn't edit this site. Today they got it fixed. Thank you so very much Verizon folks!

Stay tuned for more useless diatribes! I got lots more coming!
2:49 pm pdt

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