F-86 Story

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Curator Note: A Fascinating Coincidence from 1956


Email: Rick Moser, Friday, July 20, 2012 at 14:04:00


Hello Sir,

I’m an engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, and wanted to respond to your interesting HP memoir. Incidentally, I am writing my own life story as well, for my kids, as much as anything else. My Dad was an F-86 pilot, flying out of Chaumont AB, France in 1956. He was with the 48th FBW (Fighter Bomber Wing) and was standing alert with the guy who went over East Germany.

Here is a story from my memoirs (as best I remember it)...

"Dad told a funny story once about when they would stand ready-alert watches on the East German border. Basically they would have four F-86’s idling on the runway, waiting to be fired up if the Russians attacked, or maybe waiting to be loaded up with a nuke bound for Moscow.

After the week-long, or so, exercise was over they would race out to their F-86’s and takeoff, helter-skelter. Sometimes they would cut each other off or take off from the taxi ramp (the ramp is the taxiway that parallels the runway) and race back to Chaumont, last one home buys the beer. Picture a bunch of teenagers racing hot rods through the countryside and you get the idea. Their navigation was a little more rudimentary then than it is now. They would take off, do a 180 degree turn, then race at tree top level for 120 minutes, pop up, roll inverted, locate the airfield at Chaumont, and land.

Anyway, one of the guys forgot the 180 degree turn at the beginning so 120 (or it might have been 90) minutes later he popped up and didn’t recognize where he was. He contacted a tower somewhere and was trying to sort out where he was and the tower noticed somebody tooling around 120 minutes inside East Germany. The tower asked him to do a turn to starboard and sure enough, that was the contact in East Germany.

The pilot got back down on the deck and streaked for West Germany and safety. He ran out of gas while still over East Germany but was able to glide over the border and land on the Autobahn freeway, whew. He snapped off his front gear but they repaired the damage, refueled him and he took off from the Autobahn and headed for home. I bet he got quite a ribbing in the bar that week."

I wonder if that was the same guy from your story.

Also, I used to have your Transistor Basics book; it was well written.






George responds: Rick’s remembrance of his Dad’s story looks right to me although I don’t believe that the repaired F86 took off from the Autobahn. I can't be sure, but I was told that it would be trucked out. I remember that the wing was dented near where it connected to the main part of the plane. I believe there would have been a local story if it had taken off from the Autobahn as the road would have to be closed, the plane refueled, repaired, etc. That would have taken quite a bit of time and special tools and equipment. I suspect the story got embellished over time.

What makes me think my story is about Rick's Dad's friend is what the pilot told me: “He was on a non-navigational aids flight and entered a 180 degree wrong heading." That fits with Rick's account that he forgot to do the 180 turn.

Rick: My dad has passed away, or I could ask for more clarification. He told me this story once about 30 years ago, so my recollection could be fuzzy. :o)

As I recollect the story, Dad said they sent out a grizzled old Sergeant who replaced the front landing gear and the plane took off from the highway. I may have remembered parts of the story incorrectly though. My dad's name was Dick Moser. He retired from the USAF in the 1980's.

Minck: Reading Rick’s story of his Dad’s F-86 pilot experiences reminded me of my own days in the USAF pre-flight navigation cadet training program of 1954. In the personality profiling that went on for choosing pilots and navigators—which the USAF called the pilot selection process—we navigators tended to be sort of venturesome yet “relatively” more cautious and responsible. But as Rick describes the flying antics of his Dad’s fighter pilot comrades, they undertook their missions with a gusto and daring that was needed for future combat at Mach 1. Like Tom Cruise in Top Gun.

So being a motorcycle driver was a plus for pilot training, those that loved going fast with some risk-taking. But if you had had a motorcycle ACCIDENT, which WAS your fault, then you might be considered potentially reckless and careless, and would not qualify. I’ll make my point with a couple of pictures of our pre-flight training routine, which show a field day for teamwork exercises in problem solving. The tower of telephone poles was intended for climbing up one side and down the other. If I recall, getting over the highest horizontal pole required a little assistance from your team members to boost you over the top log safely, one after the other. But I guess we can easily see who will be selected for later pilot training.

In spite of the flying enthusiasm of those young pilots, they were in the USAF flying cadre who saw serious service in Vietnam. Col. Richard Eugene Moser received 2 Silver Stars, one Legion of Merit, and 7 Distinguished Flying Crosses during service in Vietnam, and over a 33 year career.


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