Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Richard L. Flechsig - 15th Squadron

Here's a toast to the host of men we boast: The Class of 1964.


I took a little literary license, but it fit. Congratulations to all of us who made it through the Academy and to everyone who tried. I am sure we have all thought at least once in our lives ."there but for the grace of God go I." I read several of our classmates' histories and am in awe of their experiences. Yogi Bera once said "If you come to a fork in the road, take it." Looking back I see a lot of forks that I took, some good and some not; however, I credit my survival and careers to having been a member of the 6th class at USAFA. While my career had many twists and turns, I did get to do the one thing that I loved: fly. I am in the presence of greatness and am honored to have known and worked with many of you. .

I was about 12 years old and living at Bitburg Air Base, Germany when I heard that there was going to be an Air Force Academy. I hadn't really thought about my future, but right then and there, I decided I wanted to go to the Academy and become a pilot. Bitburg had the F-86 when we arrived and then became the first base in Europe to get the F-100, so every day I had some real motivation. My folks kept me on the straight and narrow and my nose to the grindstone from then on. I credit a lot to my Dad in getting my appointment. My Dad's last assignment was at the Olathe Naval Air Station, Kansas. He managed to stay there for my four years of high school which gave me the opportunity to get known in the community and get a lot of help in my endeavor.

It doesn't seem that long time since the secretary checking me in told me "remember your number" and pointed to the door to the terrazzo. The hum I had heard became a buzz saw: chin in, to, chest up, to, hit it for 10, to, quit gazing, to (don't these guys know any other numbers?), hit it for 10, haircut-really? double time, some uniform parts that almost fit --- and then we got to eat, ha-ha. It took a minute to figure out pantherpis and tigerpis. Being on one of the top floors made clothing formations on the North Road really fun. A positive note was the Air Power movies we watched. It hadn't been that long since WWII ended and we would come out of Fairchild Hall all psyched. While my Basic Training roommate washed out, somehow most of us made it through Doolie Summer. Unfortunately, 46th & Finest wasn't. Then the rest of the upperclassmen returned and the fun continued.

My first permanent roommate was Hal Gunn. I had met Hal while jumping through the hoops of the appointment process. We ignorantly said: "let's be roommates." Wouldn't you know, we both found ourselves in 15th Squadron as roommates? Who'd a thunk it?

We all suffered together and made it through Doolie Year, even with the "Dirty Detail" imposed by the RTB First Sergeant. We had jumped a third classman and thrown him into the showers. That didn't go over so well, so free time was scheduled for cleaning the squadron area. One of the positive highlights of that first year was that I was on the Sabre Drill Team and we put on a surprise demo for one of the First Class graduation activities.

I hadn't been in a fight in years so, of course, I was picked for the squadron boxing team. I remember my first two fights: the first with a Yellow Tag Golden Gloves Champion and the second with a Red Tag Wing Champion. I knew I was going to be killed, but I lived to fight again. We had at least one classmate disqualified for pilot training because he was knocked out while boxing. I always thought that was wrong.

A lot of my four years have run together or been lost to time. However, I will run my laundry list and perhaps you will remember:

a. Late night pep-rallies - "Arriba Falcones," football game march-on's.
b. Dancing class.
c. Hell Week (the doolies in our squadron drew first blood with a preplanned scatter maneuver). The boat in the Air Gardens Pool.
d. Our Summer Field Trip, jet fighter flights, blind dates.
e. The red F-106 compliments of '66.
f. Class banners hanging on Fairchild Hall.
g. Saturday Morning Inspection Home Shows (we worked harder on them than on a regular SAMI.
h. The Corvette that was clocked as a low-flying airplane at Castle Rock.
i. The day that Kennedy was killed.
j. Our European Field Trip with leave in Europe.
k. Summer Detail.
l. "Attention to Orders." SOD is "Captain Midnight."
m. Honor Meetings --- things have changed.
n. Stuffing the AOC's office.
o. "Dear John Letters" on the B-Board.
p. "Call to Quarters" liquor inspections.

Academics were just that. I was amazed at times when I passed some of the courses. We lost many classmates along the way for academics and other reasons. It was always a shame to see them go because we all knew how hard it was to get an appointment.

I started dating Karla Kitt as a Doolie and we were the first graduating couple married in the Chapel. We had pictures taken that were to be in Life Magazine, but an Indy car crash took precedence. However, we got some really nice pictures anyway.

Just after entering USAFA, my vision failed. I sweated the whole four years that I would not be able to go to pilot training. Luckily, some Academy graduates were being granted vision waivers and I was able to go to UPT. I chose Webb AFB, TX because they had the T-38 Talon. Pilot training was fun and frustrating at the same time. Both of my solos were memorable: Karla was in the mobile unit with a wives' visit when I soloed the T-37 and I was the first in my section to solo the T-38. I stayed at Webb as a T-38 IP and then transferred to Randolph and Tyndall as a PIT T-38 IP. The only real excitement I had in the T-38 was a bird ingestion right at lift-off. Luckily, I had a strong student and he saved me!

I kept thinking that I was going to get an assignment to SEA (Vietnam) at any time. Finally, I volunteered for the F-4 and got a T-28 instead. The assignment was to be an advisor to the Thai Air Force, but that was changed enroute to become an instructor with Det1, 56SOW (Udorn RTAB), the training school for the Laotian Air Force. It was an interesting and rewarding assignment flying with the "little guys." Many of them had not been around anything more mechanical than an elephant for most of their lives. There they were learning how to fight, knowing they were going back to their country (Laos) to fly and probably die.

Udorn was a real experience for me. Within 6 weeks, I had bailed out of a T-28 in an inverted spin. I had never been in one, but recognized what it was when I was looking up and all I could see was the ground. I had a good student in the front seat, but he would not let go of the controls and reverted to his native language. Unfortunately, he did not understand my multiple "bail-out" commands. My parachute ride was about 3-5 seconds before I hit the ground --- thank God for the Yankee Seat. It took 10 years to find out what had happened to cause my bail-out. The airplane was an RT-28 with a camera pod on the belly which blanked out the vertical stabilizer and rudder with a high angle of attack. Any yaw in that situation would cause a spin. Of course all the corporate knowledge of this flying characteristic had long since rotated Stateside. The T-38 did not have that problem.

About half-way through my year, I had a throttle linkage failure. I could reduce power, but not increase it. I was able to limp back to Udorn, but as I descended, engine power increased --- I finally understood manifold pressure!! I set up for a forced landing pattern, reduced power and made a real forced landing. I remember my student asking me in the base turn: "Captain Flechsig, is this a real emergency?"

Just about 6 weeks before my rotation date, my roommate was killed in the T-28 I was scheduled to fly. He had flown the plane in the morning and left his gear in it. We just swapped planes, a common practice on a hot day. He and another pilot I had known at Webb AFB crashed on a rocket pass. The horizontal stabilizer failed and they lost control. Unfortunately, they were flying a T-28 with no Yankee System.

So, in a one year tour, I cheated death three times.

My return assignment put me into the F111F at Mt Home AFB, ID. While the airplane was impressive, it was not a real fighter and it took me a while to get over the disappointment. However, when you are young and dumb, blasting through the mountains at 500 feet at 500 knots at night was a pretty big deal. I went to Flying Safety Officer School and worked the Wing Flying Safety Officer slot until I got a Rated Supplement assignment to AF Recruiting Service for a year. It was an interesting assignment: our detachment was located right at the end of the French Quarter in New Orleans. I returned to the F-111A at Nellis and soon found myself back at Mt Home courtesy of "Operation Ready Switch." While at Mt Home, I took another one of those forks; after 15 years of marriage and three great kids, I chose another path.

Career-wise, it was not a very good choice and soon after I got my final assignment. "What are they going to do, send me to Korea?" Yes, I was assigned to the HTACC at Osan AB, Korea. It was an accompanied tour with my second wife. After 2 years, I was offered continuation and took a staff job with 5thTacAirControlGroup. One of the benefits of the job was flying the OV-10 with the 19th TASS. It was good to get back to flying and being around the younger pilots. We flew the DMZ along the 38th Parallel. It was amazing to see all the preparations that had been made over the years in the event of another invasion by the North Koreans. In 1986, I returned to CONUS and retired after 22 years of service.

So there I was, 44 years old and unemployed. I hit the ground running and got my Flight Engineer and Airline Transport Pilot licenses. Soon after, I got a call from our classmate, Bob Crowder. He was the DO of Sunworld Airlines in Las Vegas. I interviewed with them and got hired into the DC9. I was really enjoying the job when I realized that they were going out of business. Luckily, American Airlines offered me a class date and I was only furloughed for three months.

I had hit a major airline window at the right time. American wanted experienced pilots who would not be with them for too long in terms of retirements. I wanted to continue flying; it was a win-win for both of us. I really enjoyed my 14+ years at American Airlines. I flew the 727 and MD-11 as First Officer and then finished my last 3 years as Captain on the Fokker100 flying out of Dallas-Fort Worth.

This time, retirement was a little easier to handle. But, as we all know, you just can't completely stop. So, we sold our house in Texas, bought a really nice motorhome and started to travel. Unfortunately, differing opinions and close quarters brought me to another fork in the road. We sold the motorhome, moved to Reno and ended our marriage. I am still in Reno with the "last love of my life," Alice. We have a spare bedroom and like visitors, so stop by.

Family-wise, I have three kids: Scott, Todd and Amy. They have presented me with 8 grandkids and one great-grandson. I really don't know how this all happened since my first "no excuse, sir!"

We have all had interesting lives and careers since 1960. USAFA was a great start to our futures. We have lived in and served the greatest country in the world. I know when this journey started we never would have expected to see the changes that are happening now. I hope that ". Nothing can stop the US Air Force."

Alice and Flex

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