Thursday, September 24, 2009

Countdown to Departure

A man has only one virginity to lose in fighters, and if it is a lovely plane he loses it to, there his heart will ever be.

— Ernest Hemingway, 'London Fights the Robots,' written for Collier's, August 1944

We’re pretty sure Hemingway wasn’t speaking about the F-89 Scorpion when he wrote this, it is doubtful that except for it’s designers and pilots few would call this Cold War Interceptor lovely. But for Heritage Flight Museum founder Maj. Gen William Anders it is certain the F-89 has always held a special place in his memory.

As a newly minted fighter-interceptor pilot at the start of the Cold War in the 1950s, then-Lieutenant Anders flew the all-weather F-89 at Hamilton Field just north of San Francisco CA, and at Reykjavik, Iceland. The F-89s Lt. Anders flew were armed with the air-air nuclear Genie missile to counter the threat posed by early Soviet heavy bombers to attack US cities. Luckily, the waves of bombers never came and these missiles were never used in anger. However on July 19, 1957 a F-89 launched a Genie missile over the Nevada Nuclear Test Range at Yucca Flat in Operation Plumbbob John, the only time a missile carrying a live nuclear weapon has ever been fired and the weapon detonated.

While live nuclear weapons were never launched, long before Tom Cruise “communicated” with a fictional Soviet MIG-28 in the film Top Gun, while based in Iceland Gen Anders was the first to use an early form of digital communication to let a REAL Soviet bomber crew know exactly what he thought of them. (Since this is a family journal we will not spell out exactly what signal he sent to the Soviets. However, we will say that before there was Tom Cruise in a F-14, there was Lt. Anders in his F-89.)

Bill on the wing during his tour with the 57th FIS (Fighter Interceptor Squadron) "Black Knights" of Iceland. In the back seat is Bill's Radar Observer and old friend, Col John Neese.

Of course, Gen Anders moved on from the F-89 to other aircraft and spacecraft, but he always remembered the F-89 fondly.

Recently a F-89 on-loan from the GSA to a technical college in Helena, MT became available, and even better, it was one that was still in near-flyable condition* with much of it’s original equipment intact. HFM decided to acquire the aircraft, and in the early hours of Oct 11 our crew will set out to Helena, MT to disassemble the Scorpion and bring her home.

Fifty years later in 2009, HFM Founder and former F-89 pilot Bill Anders
stands on the wing of HFM's latest acquisition!

*The aircraft will not be restored to flying condition, but we hope that we may be able to restore it to the point where it will be able to taxi under it's own power.