Captain Blowdri’s Cool Adventure!


(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

On Tuesday of this week I was able to fulfill a a trip that was 37 years in the making!  For all my flying years, and that dates back to August 1973, I have always wanted to visit the USAF boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.  The “boneyard” is formally known as the 309th AMARG (Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group) located at Davis-Monthan, AFB on the East side of Tuscon.

After making some phone calls to get the tour schedule, we decided to get over to the Pima Air & Space Museum on Tuesday morning for the 10am tour bus departure.  I was very excited about the possibility of seeing some of my old friends, the T-37 and T-38 from my USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training days at Williams AFB, AZ, and my old C-141’s that I flew during my six year USAF tour at Travis AFB, CA.

Two of my brothers, Jim and Jerry, along with Jerry’s son, Scott, decided it would be best to be on the first tour of the day which launched at 10am.  So we arrived at the Pima Air Museum a little after 9am to purchase our tickets and assure ourselves of being on that first tour bus.

As we pulled out from the Museum heading over to the “boneyard” my excitement began to grow.  Our first stop after entering the acres and acres of stored airplanes is called “celebrity row”.  In this area there appears to be one of just about every aircraft that is stored in this facility.  In this area there were C -130’s, S-2’s. S-3’s, F-4’s,F-16’s, F-14’s, A-4’s, A-7’s, EB-66’s, F-111’s, KC-135’s, EC-135’s, B-1’s, just to name a few.  There were helicopters like, the Cobras, Hueys, Sea Furies, etc.

As the bus turned one of the corners I could see row after row of the T-37 Tweet.  That is the first airplane that I flew in Pilot Training.  All those rows of Tweets instantly brought back the memories of 2Lt. Boyd L. Hammack climbing into a USAF aircraft for the very first time.  Back in August of 1973 there were feelings of excitement, exuberance, as well as feeling hugely overwhelmed at the fact that, here I really am a humbly poor boy from Fresno, getting the chance to become a USAF pilot!

Further on our bus tour stood row after row of the T-38 Talons.  This aircraft was the second plane that I flew at Williams AFB, AZ.  Seeing all these plans brought back another emotion, that of being “bullet proof”, as well as a felling of accomplishment.

However, my biggest disappointment was learning during the tour that just recently almost all of the C-141’s that were stored in the “boneyard” have been removed, cut up and destroyed! What a dramatic let down!  Nevertheless, I was informed that there was one C-141 spared and sent over to the Pima Air & Space Museum, the next stop on our tour.

As we walked around the 74 acres of aircraft in the Pima Air & Space Museum, I spotted my old long lost friend, the C-141 pictured above.  When I got closer to this old war horse, I recognized the tail number as one of the airplanes that I personally flew during my five years at Travis AFB.  There was a warm fuzzy feeling the flowed from my head to my toes.  It was like seeing an old high school or college friend that you haven’t seen, for me personally, in 36 years!  It was 1975 all over again!

As I walked up to it and touched the skin of my long lost friend, I had instant flashbacks.  There were the memories of my first trip across the Pacific, my first landing at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, my part in the Saigon Evacuation in April of 1975, checking out in the left seat and becoming the aircraft commander, and many, many more pleasant memories.  I could have sat down in the shadow of my long lost friend and mulled over the plethora of “good old days” experiences that I had over those five years flying this airplane!  However, I had to move on, and with great regret I had to say good bye.

Nevertheless, the rush of feelings and memories continued to flow through my brain for hours and hours, long into the night after I left my old friend.

So as you can see, the tour through the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group was cathartic for Captain Blowdri.  This tour comes just a few days after I have received notice that my flying career with United Airlines is now history.  Therefore, this tour generated much more meaning for me now than it would have been a few weeks, months, or years ago!

Once again, I must bid adieu to three old friends and the memories that composed those “good old days”!