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George Wallace's first term - Another low-pass flyby story [View All]

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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-11 06:24 PM
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George Wallace's first term - Another low-pass flyby story
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The setting:
Wallace was serving his first term as governor of Alabama, 1965 I think.
I was a pilot in the Alabama Air National Guard.
He was our Commander-in-Chief

We were flying RF-84/Fs.

Ours had recently been painted in camo colors and the tail numbers were in black against a dark background.
Very hard to read at high speeds.
This became very important!

Alabama was playing Tennessee at Denny stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Bear Bryant was the coach, so this was before it was renamed Bryant-Denny Stadium after Bryant's death.
As we later learned, the governor was in attendance.
Sitting next to him was our commanding general.

The 'Mission Brief':
Four of us who were good friends decided to join up after we'd flown our assigned individual missions (taking photos of various 'targets' in the state).
We'd do this over the Tuscaloosa VOR, a radio navaid on the local airport.
And then give the football crowd the 'treat' of a flyby.
We briefed it like a normal mission.
Who would fly lead, 2, 3 and 4 (slot).
It would be a diamond formation.
(My close friend Rick was flying lead.
I trusted him with my life.
Lead in front, 2 on his left wing, 3 on his right, and 4 in the 'slot', very slightly below and behind him.
..2 3
And If the slot guy didn't come back with his vertical stabilizer (tail) black with the soot from lead's exhaust he wasn't in tight enough.
Muy macho.
I flew slot.

The Action:
We joined up over the Tuscaloosa VOR at 5000' as briefed and joined up in formation.
(You should understand that in 'close' formation every pilot must have implicit trust in the lead aircraft's pilot. Your eyes are glued to his aircraft and you do whatever is necessary to remain in tight proximity. A good leader will tell you what he is about to do. "Going into a left bank turn...NOW." "Beginning descent...NOW. Speed brakes...NOW."
You can't look out at the terrain or at your instruments.
Just glued on what lead does.
That's why, several years ago, four members of the Air Force Thunderbirds flew into the side of a mountain.
That's where lead took them and so that's where they went.
Yeah, it's kinda scary.
But you have to trust lead.

So...I had been listening to the AM radio broadcast of the game on the direction finding radio our plane had. Don't remember who was ahead.
We started a slow descent towards the stadium.
It was half-time.
Alabama's Million Dollar Band was performing on the field.
Back then, the stadium was open at both ends.
Not a 'bowl' like it is now.

As we approached one end of the stadium, I COULD HEAR THE ROAR OF OUR ENGINES ON MY EARPHONES!

Just as we got to the field I remember thinking "SHIT! We are REALLY low!"
Just about midfield, for a par-second (is there such a word?) I glanced to the left and I was looking UP at the press box.
On the squadron radio frequency we were all on I screamed "JESUS, RICK?!"
I heard him laugh.

Then the stadium announcer said "Wow, folks! We've just had a very impressive surprise low pass by our own Alabama Air National Guard. Thanks, Governor Wallace!"
We're heroes.

OK, this is long enough for an OP.
I'll append the 'aftermath' later.
Oh and there was an 'AFTERMATH'.
We narrowly escaped courts martial.
But that's another story.

Bonus pic: Me about to hook up and refuel from a KC-135 (basically a Boeing 707) tanker.
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