Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

My History

Jimmy L. Heisz

In reviewing the deeds, accomplishments, and sacrifices of my classmates, I can't help but be impressed, awed, and humbled. Needless to say, I am proud to be a member of the class of 1964. Since the goal is to collect as many bios as possible, I offer the following:

I was born and raised on farm in Wisconsin and enlisted in the Air Force when I did not secure an appointment to the class of '63. I reapplied for an appointment and, to my astonishment, received an appointment to the Academy with the class of '64. It literally changed my life and, as it has with so many of us, defined who I am. The cadet years are familiar to us all and further comment thereon is unnecessary, except for the fact that I met the lovely Miss Ingeborg Turnwald, my future wife, at a cadet dance during my third class year. I was supposed to escort one of our squadron academic liaison officers to a dance and needed a date. Mrs. Turner provided the name and I made the call. The academic liaison officer never showed but Inge did. We were married on June 4, 1964, the day after graduation. IngeJim2009a2.jpg Following graduation, we reported to Webb AFB for pilot training. I was assigned to Webb as a T-38 instructor pilot following pilot training. Because anecdotal events have been specifically requested as part of this submission, I will offer a couple with the clear realization that they pale in comparison to the accomplishments, trials, and tribulations of some of my classmates.

I was still a butter bar instructor when one Friday morning a classic West Texas sand storm rolled in, catching several of us in the air with students. With the winds exceeding the T-38 crosswind limitations, we were diverted to the Midland-Odessa airport. One of the diverted pilots was the group commander who had a cross country scheduled. He decided to depart from Midland and, because his plane was scheduled for periodic maintenance, took mine. A bus dispatched from Webb to take the students back to base brought the Colonel's traveling companion and clothes, and they departed early in the afternoon. I was assigned to fly the Colonel's plane back. Several maintenance personnel with equipment, refueling trucks, etc., had been sent from Webb to turn the planes around. That evening, after all the commercial operations had locked up and gone home and the winds died down, we started back. I was the last scheduled for takeoff. I got in the cockpit and found the Colonel had left the master switch on; dead battery and no electrical power cart available. We were all tired and wanted to go home--including the crew chiefs, who definitely did not want to wait for a power cart from Webb. The Tech Sgt crew chief, stating he did not know if it was allowable or not, dropped the right front panel and jumped his pickup truck battery to the plane battery. I started the left engine, he removed the jumper cables and buttoned the panel up and I started the right engine and took off. I never asked if what he did was allowable and never told. Still don't know. I was impressed with his “can do” attitude and, whenever I think about it, am reminded that this is but one example of the kind of thinking and action that separates our airmen, soldiers, sailors, and marines from the armed services of most of the rest of the world.

After completing the less than ten-minute hop to Webb, I still had nearly a full fuel load and we were landing in the direction opposite to our normal operations. Of course, I landed hot and long. By the time I got the plane stopped the pitot tube was hanging over the barrier and I had to turn the plane around to taxi back to the runway. This was, of course, witnessed by the squadron T-38 operations officer, Major Dave Eby, a friend and great aviator, who subsequently had a number of occasions to remind me that I stretched the runway to its maximum usable length. When I arrived home my wife asked if I had a good time at the officers club. No one had called to let her know that I had been diverted because the person responsible for making the calls did not know I was married. She knew flying had been canceled and thought I had gone to the club with the guys. She was hot; first at me and then at the squadron for not calling. JimmyandIngerev1.jpg The only other T-38 anecdote worth relating was the night I shut down night operations. We were doing night touch-and-goes (I love the British terminology -- circuits and bumps} getting our students ready for night solo, when I felt a slight skid on take off. A visual check by another plane indicated that I may have blown a tire. An emergency was declared and a straight in approach approved. On touchdown it became apparent it was more than a blown tire; I had a locked brake. The magnesium wheel assembly was grinding off in a rooster tail of sparks that seemed several hundred feet long and tall. It lit the whole flight line. The only damage to the airplane was the wheel assembly but night operations were shut down for the night pending a FOD search the next morning. A screw had loosened, fallen out, and dropped between the brake plates.

We were at Webb for four years. Both of our daughters were born in the base hospital at Webb. For a portion of the time I was a training officer (TO) for a class of students, but for most of the time I was on the flight line as an instructor. In all, I accumulated more than 2,000 hours in T-38s. I loved the airplane and still do.

About half way through my stay at Webb, my eyesight started to deteriorate. I had gone to pilot training on a waiver in the first place and now started to wonder how long I would be able to fly. I figured about eight to ten years at the most. The only nonflying job in the Air Force that was of interest to me was JAG. I was told that, since I was rated, I could not attend law school while in the service (Vietnam, you know). We decided that the only thing I could do was resign my commission, find a position in a National Guard unit to support us, and go to law school. I was fortunate to secure a position in the South Carolina Air National Guard as an interceptor pilot flying the F-102, another great airplane but lousy weapon system in view of historical developments. I would have to attend interceptor training at Perrin AFB, and was told they had a slot for me immediately after my date of separation. Before doing so, however, I had to attend water survival school and the only one available prior to the date I was scheduled for training at Perrin was a weekend course at Tyndall AFB. I found a student that also wanted to attend the course and we went cross country to Tyndall for water survival school. After completion, we were getting a weather briefing for our return to Webb at Tyndall ops and watched the television coverage of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon.

After finishing the course at Perrin, I was a full time guard bum until starting law school at the University of South Carolina in August of 1970. Fear can be a great motivator, and the fear of failure or even mediocrity made me a good law school student. I also like to think I had an aptitude for the law, but I was definitely scared at first. Fortunately, I did well and, so far as I know, was the first editor-in-chief of the S.C. law review from north of the Mason-Dixon line. In case anyone checks this out, be advised that I have not. It all worked out fine, although it was at times difficult for my wife. I was either at school, studying, or at the guard base most of the time, leaving her with two little girls to nurture.

I want to relate at least one anecdote regarding F-102s. I could write about my mid-air with a flock of ducks at Perrin that punched several holes in the plane or about getting scrambled through a thunderstorm and having the pitot-static system freeze from a few drops of water trapped in the system, but will not; although I probably already have. Instead, I will tell my hi-jacker story.

It was during finals week when I received a call that one of the guys scheduled for alert could not make it and that I could have his slot if I wanted it. Because each day of alert was a day of active duty and we were paid accordingly, I accepted. I had planned to study that night anyway and knew the guys would let me have one of the five minute slots so I could (the two guys on 15 minute alert generally flew a training mission). At about 2000 hours or so, we were scrambled to follow a hi-jacked airliner (I think it was an Eastern Airlines plane). We followed it to New Orleans, landed at the ANG facility and went to bed. We were woken when the hi-jacked airliner was preparing for take off; took off adjacent to and followed it over the Gulf for sixty miles or so and then diverted to Tyndall, where we went back to bed. The next morning we recovered to McIntire ANGB and found out the hijacker bailed out over Central America; a D.B. Cooper copycat. In the meantime, I missed a final. The guys in my study group could not believe it. Fortunately, the law professor for the course was probably the only reserve AF JAG Colonel at the university and let me make it up. I caught a break.

DSC01275rev2.jpg I graduated from law school with honors in the Spring of 1973 and took a job as an associate with a large, for the time, Dallas law firm. Our son was born in 1976. I made partner in 1978; switched to another large law firm in 1983; and went solo in 1996. I also switched practice areas from tax to intellectual property at about the time I went solo. I have no anecdotes about the practice of law that I feel comfortable relating for publication.

Militarily, I switched to the reserves and was a USAFA liaison officer for a couple of years and then joined the JAG as a mobilization augmentee. I retired from the reserves as an O-5 in 1987. The time demands of my practice were not conducive to further active participation, although I do regret not telling the firm to take a hike and let me continue on for a few more years.

My children are all settled with children of their own, either on the ramp or in the hangar. We are trying to retire and will when the clients leave me alone. I do a lot of work for various Masonic charities and am active in several Masonic organizations. We are enjoying our grandchildren, our fishing club, the Dallas gun club, season tickets to the Texas Rangers, upland game and waterfowl hunting, the birddogs, double guns, collecting art and books, each other (looking forward to our fiftieth in 2014) and whatever the future may bring.
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