Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Frederick S. Olmsted, Jr - A History

Fredo_exp.png There is no doubt that most of our illustrious class individual histories will start with something like “I left for the AF Academy a couple of weeks after graduating from high school." So, staying true to form, 10 days after graduating from Chula Vista High school, I, too, headed for the shiny, impressive, intimidating military academy that I had seen in various advertising brochures in my school counselor's office. I had no idea what was in store for me when I jumped on that Continental plane and left Lindbergh Field in San Diego (Chula Vista is about 10 miles south of San Diego), and of course it wasn't what I had hoped it would be!! After that hellacious first summer, I was put in the brand-new 20th Squadron, and there I was privileged to start long-lasting friendships with fine, fine men like Doug Jenkins, Todd Jagerson, Joe Griffith, Ray Blunt, "Roadrunner" Glenn, "Bumaga" Cobeaga, and on and on.

We had a proud, close squadron, and most of us spent our most productive time studying, shining shoes, polishing floors, and trying to stay out of trouble. I managed to keep a decent GPA while playing four years of baseball for the Falcon team. My most productive baseball year was the season of 1964, when our team (featuring power hitters like shortstop Darryl Bloodworth and catcher Al McArtor) won the mountain regional for the first time in Academy history. As a reward, we got to take on the #1 ranked college team in the US--Arizona State--for a berth in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. We lost in a 3-game series, and I took my only pitching loss of the season. My record that season was 8 wins and 1 loss, and I still own a couple of all-time pitching records for AFA baseball players. I was honored to be named to the NCAA All-Western baseball team as the first-team left-handed pitcher.

After graduation, it was off to UPT at Vance in Class 66-B. I loved flying the White Rocket, and ended up winning the Outstanding Flying Award (T-38) at the end of the year. I think this contributed to my being assigned to ATC as a T-38 IP, and I arrived at Reese AFB in Dec. 1965. Reese was a superb training base, and while I was there I participated in all the wing sports (football, basketball, and of course, baseball). In the 3 years I served at Reese, I was named the Reese IP of the Year, and also the Athlete of the Quarter. With the help of the mayor of Lubbock, I was also allowed a little extra time- off to pitch for the Texas state semi-pro baseball team in two semi-pro world series tournaments featuring teams from all 50 states. I was named as the all-state semi-pro pitcher for the Texas team.

In 1968, my volunteer request for SEA combat duty finally got to somebody's desk, and to my joyous surprise I was given orders to Davis-Monthan AFB to check out in the F-4 Phantom. I entered F-4 CCTS in Mar. 1969 and finished up in Sep. 1969. Within a month, I was heading for combat in SEA. I was privileged to serve in combat in SEA for the next 30 months. My last 20 months (Dec 1970-Jun 1972) were spent in the 13th TFS at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand. We were part of the 432d TRW, the famous "MiG Killer Wing," whose motto was “...and kill MiGs."

While at Udorn, I served as a Laredo Fast FAC, and when the air war heated up once again in early 1972 I was selected as one of the special cadre of MiGCAP flight leaders. Our mission was to dash ahead of the strike fighters that were bombing Hanoi so as to keep the MiGs from engaging our bomb-laden fighter brethren. While I was leading these MiG sweep missions over Hanoi, I shot down two enemy MiG-21s in aerial combat. The first kill took place on Mar. 30, 1972, and the second kill was on Apr. 16, 1972.

It was the second kill that became quite famous after it was featured on the History Channel Dogfights episode entitled "Hell Over Hanoi." I was flying as Basco Flight lead on that particular mission, leading a four ship of Phantoms from Udorn. It is interesting to note that my aircraft that day was the now-iconic "MiG Killer Phantom" that sits in front of Mitchell Hall, tail # OY 463! At the end of this mission, the proud warrior Phantom would have another red star adorning the splitter plate!

Our mission on 16 April was to act as MiGCAP for a major strike against Hanoi that morning. We were in orbit on the western border of NVN when we were alerted that there were four blue bandits closing head-on at 20 miles. I positioned Basco Flight for the imminent dogfight and ordered the flight members to jettison the 3 external fuel tanks we were all carrying. Just then, my backseater (Capt. Stu Maas) picked up two of the bandits on the radar. At twelve miles Stu obtained a full radar lock-on, and informed me that these bogeys were indeed MiG-21s. As we closed head-on and came into firing range, I hesitated to fire my Sparrow missiles fearing that the bogeys might be friendlies drifting into our area. I just didn't trust the new, top-secret electronic gear that was installed in the airplane which allowed us to shoot BVR, or beyond visual range. I disregarded Stu's insistent intercom calls to me to "shoot 'em, Fredo, shoot 'em, they are MiG-21s."

At that time, I saw the two aircraft pass immediately overhead, and they were indeed shiny MiG-21s!! I immediately alerted my #3 (Major [now General] Dan Cherry) of my visual sighting and made a high-g turn up and to the right to engage the MiGs. As we were rolling out behind the lead MiGs, the third MiG entered the fight from behind. Doing his usual superb job as an element leader, Dan Cherry picked this MiG-21 up and engaged him in a high-speed fight that I could hear taking place.

As I pulled OY 463 in behind the two lead MiGs, the MiG leader performed a split-s directly in front of my nose and was gone from the fight, leaving his wingman to fend for himself. I tracked this MiG through a number of high-speed, high-g vertical vector rolls until I got into good Sparrow firing position. I fired a missile at the MiG while we were both in a hard left turn. The missile impacted the aircraft and blew about half of his wing off, but the pilot didn't eject and the aircraft kept on turning hard. So I fired 2 more Sparrows at him, and the second of these two shots scored a direct hit. The missile went through the top of the MiG's canopy, and the shiny enemy fighter exploded into two, huge fireballs.

After the war in SEA had ended, various books and documents were written extolling the tactics that I employed to shoot down my adversary in that dogfight, calling the dogfight "the textbook example as to how a Phantom should fight against a MiG-21." I left the 432nd in Jun. 1972, after flying more than 300 combat missions. I was awarded 2 Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with 21 Oak Leaf Clusters.

I am proud and humbled to say that I was privileged to fly combat with some of the greatest fighter pilots the AF has ever produced. Our classmate Bob Lodge was a mentor to all of us in our wing, and he was a fearless combat pilot with a brilliant understanding of combat flying. Likewise, our classmate and fighter ace Steve Ritchie was a superb combat leader who flew and fought with extraordinary skill in his three combat tours. I was honored to fly many missions with both of these inspirational members of our illustrious class. To this day, they bring all of us a great deal of pride.

When I returned to the US, I had decided that the peacetime AF didn't particularly suit me. It seems that I had spent too much time "calling all the shots" as a combat flight lead! Consequently, I resigned from the AF in Dec. 1972.

In early 1973 I was hired by Eastern Airlines as a B-727 pilot, and I spent the next 16 years flying for EAL. My domiciles were NY, Boston, and Houston.

In my spare time, I trained and practiced 4 hours each day, 6 days a week, attempting to gain recognition as a USTA tournament tennis player. All this work eventually paid off in 1986 when I was ranked #7 in the US in Men's Singles (Over-40s) and #4 in Men's Doubles.

Unfortunately, in the mid-80s EAL fell upon hard financial times so I decided to carve out an alternate career. I interviewed and tested for law school in 1987, and that same year I was accepted into South Texas College of Law in Houston. I continued flying for EAL during these years, but managed my flight schedule so that I graduated with my class in 1989. I became a member of the Texas Legal Bar that same year, and was admitted to practice before the Texas Supreme Court.

Just as I was starting w a law firm in Houston, my best buddy Al McArtor called me from his executive office in Memphis where he was Fed Ex's Sr. VP of Flight Operations. Al invited me to Memphis for an interview with FedEx, and I was quick to accept. I happily took FedEx' job offer in 1989, and was back flying the B-727 once again! I spent the next 19 years happily employed by this wonderful company.

In 1998 I left the B-727 captain's seat for the captain's seat of the Airbus A-300. This flying assignment took me to the Philippines for the next 2 years, where I experienced the finest flying and work conditions an airline pilot could ever imagine. When I reached the statutory age of retirement (60 years old) I was summoned back to the US and to FedEx World Headquarters in Memphis. It was at this time that the VP of Flight Operations asked if I would stay on for a few more years as a Special Assistant to him. My tasking by him was to conceptualize and then implement an administrative accident investigation policy for FedEx to use in litigation after a major aircraft accident. His rationale was that my 24,000 hours of flying time plus the JD degree would be a perfect combination for devising how this idea for a new policy could be brought from imagination to reality to actual day-to-day use by FedEx executives.

The policy that I devised and implemented is still the official FedEx administrative accident investigation SOP. In the years from 2003 until I formally retired in 2008, I investigated and helped litigate 7 major aircraft accidents at FedEx. Recently, I was re-hired by FedEx as an accident investigation consultant. I was proud and happy to note that the official guidebook that I authored is still in use by the company today!! I retired from full-time work for FedEx in 2008 and moved to St Augustine, FL with my life-long love and wife Barbara.

Mrs. Barbara and I both savor all of the life-changing experiences we were privileged to enjoy during our service with the Air Force and our years spent with the commercial airlines. Most importantly, we have been blessed by having the finest, dearest, truest friends we could ever wish for. I'm proud to say that the friends I am speaking of are my brothers from the USAFA Class of 1964...finer men never served this country!!

Best always,

Fred "Fredo" Olmsted
[ Recent Photos ]
[ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]