Mail buoy

Mail buoy

F9F Pilot Search

I was a USAF air controller when LT C.H. McNeil of VF-124 was flying an F9F from NAS Moffett Field to Amarillo, Texas at night in July 1961. There were thunderstorms around Amarillo and area TACANs weren’t working. McNeil, with only 20 minutes of fuel remaining, was southeast at 33,000 feet at an unknown distance and needed a steer. I decided to use a UHF/DF unit though it had not been certified for use, but I figured this was the only way to get him down.

I had him transmit a 10 second key for a DF steer and he acknowledged this. I could hear the relief in his tone of voice. I told him to descend, searched for him on radar and finally spotted a target on the heading I had given him. The weather was 400 feet overcast with visibility two miles in thunderstorms plus heavy rain showers and north winds at 11 knots. There was also lightning in the clouds. I set him up on an ASR approach, providing him recommended altitudes each mile on final. He responded in an immediate manner and landed safely, demonstrating coolness under pressure. Shortly after he turned off the runway at the 9,000 foot taxiway the F9F’s engine quit due to fuel starvation.

I was about to be reprimanded for using non-certified equipment (the UHF/DF) but higher authority issued a Letter of Commendation instead. I would like to contact McNeil to learn what became of him. Who knows, he may have lived to commanda carrier. Please respond to ANA or email mme at:

Dave Burns

Remembering Tom McDonald

In the Fall 2001 issue, my father Tom McDonald, was featured in the In Memoriam section. We appreciate ANA’s attention to my father’s passing. However, there were two errors in the article: the date of death was September 15, 2001, not September 22nd; and my father was 77 years old, not 72.

Sean McDonald

Skyraider Relatives

We are seeking relatives of a VAW-13 EA- 1 F Skyraider crew of four who were killed in action in the Vietnam War. The USS Midway based flyers were on a SAR support mission for an A-4E flown by LTJG David Christian (call sign: Law Case). The Skyraider was circling over the SAR area when hit by enemy fire. LTJG Christian was killed and his remains later returned. The EA-1F crew were LTJG “MD” McMican, LTJG Gerald M. Romano, AT3 William H. Amspacher and ATN3 Thomas L. Plants.

Jerry Tabrum

Editor’s note: Please send any information to Wings of Gold.

Youth Support

Editors note: the writer of the following was fetured on page 57 of the Spring 2001 issue of Wings of Gold. Isilay Davaz is an aspiring aviator and a patriot. She and her sister (see photo) helped raise over $700 for the Red Cross in the wake of the 9-11-01 terrorist attack:.

I am seven and a half and my sister, Nurbanu, is four and a half. We are strong supporters of our country, the USA. My sister and I sold American flags, lemonade, toys and books to raise money for our American Red Cross. We love our country.

Isilay Davaz


My father, Albert E. Chiles, was a Naval Aviator. I found these old photos and was told that while they might not fit into the photo contest they might be published for historical perspective. In one picture (see photos at right) my sister and I are looking into my father’s helicopter. The photo was taken in 1951 in Pensacola, Florida. The other shows my father climbing into a bi-plane with a parachute strapped to his back.

Barbara Chiles

Support North Island Legacy

A major effort is underway to capture and preserve the spirit and history of Naval Aviation at NAS North Island, California. Focus is on the Tower and Adminstration Buiding, including the offices of COMNAVAIRPAC. The building is being refurbished and will feature historical images, aircraft models, murals and artifacts on the quarterdeck, main staircase, admiral’s passageway, tower and auditorium A grand opening is planned for spring 2002. The goal is to exhibit the great legacy established by Naval Aviation at NAS North Island. In the vintage photo a seaplane flies over the air station. The Tower and Administration building are in the lower left corner.

Contributions are encouraged. Please send them to : The AIRPAC Historical foundation, PO Box 1211526, San Diego, CA922112-99847.

Point Mugu

Your Fall 2001 issue brought back memories of when we lived in Solvang, California.. We made frequent flights along the coast in our Cessna Skyhawk and were always extra vigilant while passing the area shown in the picture (page 42). The Mugu Approach ATC crew was always courteous whenever VFR flight following services were requested. It was a rare occurrence to be advised “Six triple three foxtrot, unable. Squawk 1200. Gudday!”

AX- 1 Phil Rossetti, USNR-R (Ret.)

Eagle Question

Before 1940 the eagle’s head on the insignia adorning the USN officer’s formal cap faces the wearer’s left. Following this period the eagle faces the wearer’s right. Will you kindly explain why, with dates? Allen Morgan, USNR, Ret.

Editor’s note: If anyone can help on this, please respond to Wings of Gold.

VF-781 Recall

When CAPT Ed Fitch described VF78 I’s recall from Los Alamitos in June 1950 (page 10, Fall 2001 issue), he didn’t mention we received new F9F-2s and went to sea as part of CAG-102 on board USS Bon Homme Richard (CV- 31). During a seven month tour we lost no pilots and only one mech, while CAG-5 lost more pilots than its share. Never underestimate the ability of the Navy or Marine Reserve aviator. They are a national treasure. I say this for our beloved CO, CAPT Colin Oveland. I served under many COs as a reservist at sea and shore, but none like Collie.

Homer Davis

Praise for the Carrier

The case for the aircraft carriers as mobile, tactical air bases during this war against terrorists in remote Afghanistan has never been clearer. Surely as we face future undefined conflicts around the globe, our carriers, with their unique ability to move to the scene of concern without diplomatic approval, are of fundamental importance to both deterrence and active involvement. Foreign bases will always be subject to the whims of the moment and often restricted when most needed. I believe it was ADM Thomas Moorer who reminded our national leadership that while the Air Force left miles of runways behind in Southeast Asia, all of our carriers survived to provide sovereign bases for future needs. Thirty years later Kitty Hawk, Constellation and Enterprise are still on line, doing their duty wherever needed. Carriers are priceless assets. When will they ever learn?

CAPT George Carlton, USN (Ret.)


The story about Ken Schechter (Fall 2001, Pages 56-57) caught my eye. I knew Ken in flight training in 1950. I was a NavCad and he was a Holloway Plan Aviation Midshipman. I still have the photo taken of our group when we got our wings. Ken and I re-established contact a few years ago and I arranged for him to be the guest speaker at our local ANA Two-Block Fox monthly dinner meeting. What was not mentioned in the story was that on July 28, 1995, 43 years after the blind-flying landing incident, Ken received the Distinguished Flying Cross in ceremonies held on board USS Constellation (CV-64) at NAS North Island.

Fred “Crash” Blechman

Editor’s note: in one of the Will Rendezvous sections in this issue is a photograph of Ken, on a stretcher, after landing at a Korean airfield.

Small CVs

I respect and admire VADM John Nathman and am in agreement with his philosophy that prefers large carriers over small (page 20 Summer 2001). However, his thoughts may misconstrue the importance of the Ranger (CV-4) and Wasp (CV7) at that time. VADM Nathman quotes PacFleet Commanders that “both these ships were unsuitable to operate in open ocean swells and compromised the safety of flight deck operations.” This was rebutted by those ships in actions in open ocean swells on both oceans. Ranger was flag ship of the North African invasion and destroyed 85 enemy planes, at a loss of 16. CAG-4 destroyed shore installations, French and German destroyers and the battleship Jean Bart. Wasp, built in 1940, made two Atlantic crossings delivering British Spitfires through the dangerous Med. Then she went to the Pacific and supported the First Marine Division in its initial landings on Guadalcanal. She lost 193 men when hit by two torpedoes off San Cristobal and our own ships had to send her to the bottom when she wouldn’t sink. Safe flight deck operations were conducted throughout the life of these two ships during their years on the open oceans.

Tom Moore

Von Tempsky Ranch

I am researching the Von Tempsky Ranch in Maui during World War II. I seek servicemen who visited the ranch and can talk to me about their experiences. Many men signed a wood panel wall, which was in the dining room but is now located at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. You can reach me at or phone (818) 784-9888, or fax(818)788-9825.

Barbara Lewis

The Amazing Brits

Wow! We all know the Brits came up with the angled deck, the steam catapult and the mirror landing system. Now we learn (CDR Macdonald’s letter in the Fall 2001 issue, page 6) they also made a major contribution to Topgun. Naval aviation certainly is greatly indebted to them. I wonder what innovations will appear with their upcoming CV(F) aircraft carriers!

Dudley Cate

Special Note: The Landing Signal Officer School, NAS Oceana, VA will hold an Open House & Paddles Reunion, Friday 19 April 2002, 1700-1900 after the Air Demo during ANA 2002. See the one-ofa-land LSO Trainer. All are welcome!

Copyright Association of Naval Aviation Winter 2001

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