Below are pictures from the mid-1980s at Griffiss AFB sent in by CMSgt Chris Acostar (1983 – 1985)
Recently received poster for the 1984 Christmas Party of the 49th. The poster was submitted by Cheryl Morris who served from 1981 ti 1985 at Griffiss AFB.
Really like the tree, but be sure to check the price of tickets to attend. Hope this brings back some fond memories.
These photographs are from the private collection of 49er John ‘Jazz’ Jannazo.
Many of the excellent photographs below were taken by Mike Valenti, and all of them are from the private collection of 49er Bobby Armour.
The 49th FIS was scheduled to convert to the F-15 in 1986. The conversion had progressed to the selection of an F-15 Ops officer, who had come to Griffiss AFB on a permissive TDY house hunting trip. Maintenance had sent several personnel to F-15 training and was well into planning the F-15 bed-down.
Ops had developed an F-15 RTU prep course. Maj. (now Lt. Gen.) Dave Deptula, came from the F-15 RTU at Tyndall to fly with us and help develop the course. A few squadron pilots went to Tyndall to learn from the F-15 RTU instructors, sitting in on briefings and flying in the F-15 backseat to help with the transition prep course. The Squadron Commander had started making the selection of the pilots that would transition to the F-15.
It was all for naught, as the 49th conversion to the F-15 fell prey to force realignments/cutbacks. The USAF announced that the Squadron would be deactivated, and a USAF personnel team came to Griffiss AFB to work out new assignments. Shortly after the personnel team left, New York Senator Alphonse D’Amato, publicly questioned the squadron closing based on the squadron’s key contributions to National defense and the adverse economic impact on the community (it was an election year). The USAF advised the Senator they would reevaluate the closing and extended the proposed closure date one year. This occurred sometime in early 1985 with the adjusted deactivation date being 01 July 1987. Consequently, all 49th FIS personnel PCS actions were frozen to keep the squadron open another year.
This quick turn of events left us short of F-106 pilots as the squadron was paring down to start accepting F-15 pilots and several pilots had left shortly after the initial closure date announcement. Gen. Buford Lary, 1st Air Force Commander, came to visit the squadron and promised that for the pilots that stuck it out and didn’t leave USAF he would ensure they got the assignment they wanted. Even that wasn’t enough, and USAF personnel started looking for recently qualified F-106 pilots that could be retrained. We ended up with two: Lt. Col. Bill Thomas, who became the extension Operations Officer, and Maj. Buck Lowery was pulled off the NORAD staff and returned to the 49th. Buck had left the 49th only two years earlier.
At the time it seemed like a curse to be stuck in a dying weapons system another year while others were off to newer airplanes but it had it’s advantages. Although the flying schedule was tapered down as airplanes left for the boneyard we still did a fair amount of flying shut down. The Detachment at Loring AFB was quickly shut down, which didn’t result in any tears that I can recall. We found ourselves with a squadron of pilots that were all qualified to do everything. It made scheduling much easier and resulted in really good flying in an old but classy jet. Additionally, the maintenance was better than ever.
Like the pilots, the maintainers were all experienced on the F-106 and did a fantastic job keeping the jets flying in spite of dwindling spare parts.
Pilots tend to fall in love with (or hate) the jets they fly, and the F-106 was easy to fall in love with. The F-106 has arguably the best and cleanest lines of any fighter ever built and it was really fun to fly. In particular, pilots take a special liking to their jets, the ones with their names on the canopy rail. My jet was tail number 136, and I was not bashful about letting it be known that 136 was the cream of the crop.
Other pilots in the squadron felt the same about their jets, resulting in ongoing bantering and exaggeration about whose jet was the best. These spirited and good-natured debates lead to a memorable experience for Capt. John ‘Jazz’ Jannazo. One day, after flying my airplane, tail number 136, ‘Jazz’ thought it would be a funny way to get at me by making an entry in the 781 (aircraft maintenance log) that read something like this “ This airplane is a piece of junk and will no longer be referred to as 136 but will now be called 13 sick.” I think before ‘Jazz’ got off the ramp the unintended consequences of his actions were well underway. The crew chief was hurt, the line super was angry, Deputy Commander for Maintenance was livid and the Squadron Commander was about to have a piece of an unwitting Capt. ‘Jazz’ received some words of wisdom from Lt. Col. Steve Rogers, Sq/CC 1, he got to formally apologize to several maintenance personnel, he learned a lesson about being careful what you write in an official Air Force document and finally, I hope he learned you don’t mess with the best F-106, tail #136!
As 01 July 1987 approached, General Lary proved good to his word and we all received the assignments we wanted. In fact when ‘Jazz’ was told he had an F-15 to Bit AB Germany he told the personnel folks that, no, he had asked for an F-15 to Soesterberg and they changed his assignment to Soesterberg. We took several opportunities to celebrate the last active duty days of the F-106 in the USAF. We had champagne on the ramp following the last training sortie at Griffiss and we had a big farewell party for all those remaining at the Officer’s Club. At the O’club party we were faced with listening to everyone present giving a going away speech. To preclude an all night affair ‘Jazz’ came up with the idea of putting your hand in a bucket of ice water while you delivered your farewell address. As long as your hand was in the ice water you could keep speaking, but as soon as your hand came out you were done. I seem to recall ‘Jazz’ showing up with a rubber glove but I don’t think we let him get away with wearing it.
Jim Parker and I sat the last night of USAF active duty air defense alert in the F-106. The next day we launched the last five flyable aircraft to Davis Monthan AFB, AZ for storage in the boneyard awaiting conversion to the QF-106 drone program. Pilots in the five ship to DM included Lt. Col. Bill Thomas, Maj. Dan Kerecman, Maj. Bobby Amour, Capt. John Jannazo and Capt. Jim Parker. Capt. Jannazo only made it as far as McConnell where a hydraulic system failure made him leave the jet to be picked up later as he was scheduled to start F-15 training a few days later. The remaining four pressed on toward DM, and later encountered a huge thunderstorm typical in the southwest at that time of year. We climbed the formation to almost 50,000 feet as we topped the massive storm. As we cruised over the top I remember looking across the formation at that high altitude thinking it was fitting that we should be here as the F-106 was at her best when flying high.
We landed at Davis Monthan AFB, and right there on the ramp we popped the corks on the bottles of champagne we had brought with us and toasted each other and the beautiful birds that had served the USAF, and us, so well and for so long. After the champagne was gone and the pictures taken we headed off to the O’club for a final F-106 debrief wondering if ‘Jazz’ was going to catch up.
The photos of the pilots that put the F-106 darts into retirement, were taken on the flight line at Davis-Monthan AFB. The champagne was drunk to those birds they loved.
During the last years of the Dart, the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron had the honor of playing host to renowned aviation artist and illustrator Keith Ferris. His stay included a flight with one of our pilots, a briefing, of course, and, to cap off the events, a Dining In.
Below are some of the photographs taken in and around the squadron area with every pilot naturally vying for a chance to chat with him privately. As you can see, his constant smile indicates a gregarious nature. He was a pleasure to have as a guest, and the hope is strong that he will someday come once again to the Home of the 49th.
Squadron members were delighted to be able to take him up for a ride and to show off what a great plane the Dart was.
Prior to his flight, however, he was thoroughly briefed on the ins and outs of the F-106. The pictures below indicate the care and concern exercised by our pilots in making sure he was fully prepared to go aloft.