This Week In AFLCMC History - October 23-29, 2023

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
23 Oct 2008 (Tinker AFB)

Fifteen years ago, U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK); Oklahoma State Treasurer Scott Meacham; Oklahoma County Commissioner Ray Vaughn; the Hon. Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force; Lt Gen Terry Gabreski, AFMC vice commander; and Maj Gen Loren Reno, OC-ALC commander, participated in a formal ceremony transferring ownership of the former General Motors production facility south of base to the Air Force as part of a low-cost, long-term lease with the state of Oklahoma (which purchased the land in 2008 after GM’s plant closed down in 2006). This facility was renamed the Tinker Aerospace Complex (TAC), and is today one of the best aviation and aerospace manufacturing and production facilities in the world.

25 Oct 1947 (Wright-Patterson AFB)

On this date in 1947, the Air Force at Wright and Patterson Fields acquired “Skyway Park” from the Federal Public Housing Authority. The housing complex—with enough individual units for some 564 families, plus 5 Skyway Lodge dormitories for 600 single persons—was constructed for civilian workers during WWII. By the end of Dec 1947, 90 percent of the apartments had had their rent rates reduced—often quite drastically, as in the case of single rooms, which fell from $22.75 a month to just $13 a month—as the wartime workforce dispersed. For the next decade, Skyway Park was dubbed “Area D” of the bases (which themselves combined in Jan 1948 as the singular “Wright-Patterson AFB”). The structures were demolished (or sold and relocated) in 1957, and in 1963, the Air Force donated 190 acres of the land that
had made up Skyway Park to the State of Ohio for the construction of Wright State University.

26 Oct 1962 (Bombers Directorate)

Today in 1962, Strategic Air Command (SAC) received its final Boeing B-52H Stratofortress and its last three Convair B-58 Hustlers from their production lines. The B-58 only flew for a decade, from 1960 to 1970; but the B-52 has been operational since 1954 (its first flight was in 1952), and the Air Force currently anticipates that it will remain in service until 2050—nearly a century. The reason for the B-52’s long life is its flexibility, being capable of carrying the widest array of weapons in the USAF bomber inventory—including both conventional and nuclear armament. Upgrades to its engines and avionics over the decades, including ones currently in process, have kept the B-52 modernized and relevant.

27 Oct 1954 (USAF)

Today in 1954, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General while serving as the Director of Operations and Training at Far Eastern Air Forces Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Although it was a temporary appointment on account of his duties, this made him the first black general in the U.S. Air Force. The promotion was made permanent in May 1960, with Gen Davis, Jr. eventually reaching full general (four stars) by presidential action in 1998 (he’d earlier retired with three stars while still active duty in the Air Force). Gen Davis, Jr., had followed in the footsteps of his father, Gen Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., who had become the U.S. Army’s first
black general in 1940. Gen. Davis, Jr., played a key role in desegregating the Air Force after 1948, but he was most famous for leading the Tuskegee Airmen during
WWII. After his military service, he joined the U.S. Department of Transportation, where he helped end the wave of airline hijackings.

28 Oct 1997 (Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate/Hill AFB)

Today in 1997, Hill AFB hosted the formal rollout ceremony for first F-16 Fighting Falcon intended for the Jordanian Royal Air Force. The event occurred at the 419th Fighter Wing’s hangar. The chief of staff for Jordan’s Air Force, Maj Gen Mohammad Ababneh, was present for the ceremony, as was Brig Gen Ahmad Al-Shiyab, their director of maintenance. US Air Force Maj Gen Richard H. Reeling, commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, and Brig Gen William Stevens, assistant deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, were also in attendance. The delivery was part of the “Peace Falcon” program, a $220 million agreement that saw Jordan leasing American-made F-16s, with the US also providing training and maintenance. In the photo, a pair of Jordanian F-16s fly with a USAF F-16 and two US Marine Corps F-18s over the skies of Jordan in 2013.

29 Oct 1993 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)

Thirty years ago today, McDonnell Douglas received the $1.6 billion Lot V contract for six C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. The Air Force had spent about 18 months negotiating the contract, and by this point in time already had around 20 C-17s in operation. As the Air Force’s most modern cargo plane, the C-17 Globemaster III made its first flight on Sep 15, 1991 and is still in operational use today. It supports airlift, aeromedical, and airdrop missions within an unrefueled range of around
2,400 miles and a maximum payload of 170,900 pounds. Today there are more than 200 C-17s in the Air Force inventory, across the active duty, Guard, and Reserve fleets, including with the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB. 

75 Years Ago in AFLCMC History: C-47 Crash at Chanute AFB, Illinois (24 Oct 1948)

Everything happened in a thousandth of a second, but I believe we hit a power line first. I can recall seeing sparks. Then we struck a more substantial object. The deceleration began building up, and I blacked out. When I came to—and I was very surprised that I did come to—everything had moved forward in the cabin. There was baggage and several officers on top of me. I tried to get free, but couldn’t. I saw a little fire and thought, “now we’ve had it.” Several of the men in the cabin were not seriously injured, but we expected to be cooked before we could get out. There’s no question in my mind that we would have burned if the Chanute men had not extinguished the fire and come in after us in disregard of their own safety. I blacked out a second time while pinned in the wreckage. When I came to, someone was holding me up outside of the plane. 

That’s how Lt Col Charles R. Hawkes described his experience in an interview the day after his Oct 24, 1948 crash at Chanute AFB, Illinois—75 years ago today. He was a passenger aboard a Wright-Patterson AFB Doug-las C-47D (S/N 43-49416), which had suffered a catastrophic accident on its landing approach to Chanute. 
The ill-fated C-47 was on the return leg of a trip that saw it traveling from Dayton to Long Beach, California, where it picked up 22 Reserve officers for two weeks of Active Duty training at Wright-Patt with Air Materiel Command. It had already stopped at Albuquerque for refueling, and was headed next to Scott AFB, Illinois, but was diverted to Chanute (closed in the 1993 BRAC) due to weather. At about 10:39 p.m. CST, the plane began its approach to land. Unfortunately, the ground was covered in a thick fog, which base crew described as “below ordinary instrument conditions.” While the plane was on the proper approach vector to the landing strip, it undershot the runway in the low visibility conditions—hitting a power line, then crashing through a pair of empty barracks. The severed power lines cut electricity on much of the base, somewhat hampering rescue efforts. 

Although all 22 passengers survived the crash landing, 19 of them were wounded, mostly with head injuries or broken bones. Tragically, all three of the Wright-Patterson-based flight crew in the cockpit lost their lives. Those killed included: Lt Col Paul Waterman, the co-pilot; Maj Frank E. Boyd, the pilot; and crew chief, TSgt Maurice A. Neidringhaus. Major Boyd was a 1943 West Point graduate who had spent 27 months fighting in the Pacific during WWII. He had one child. Tech Sergeant Neidringhaus was a veteran of WWII in Europe, and was survived by his wife and two children. Lieutenant Colonel Waterman graduated from Dartmouth College and Brown University, served in WWII as well, and left behind a wife and daughter.