When Dick Rutan sent me this photo, taken during the 2022 Reno Air Races, my mind raced with memories of these great men of aviation.
The Reno Air Races were a gathering of veteran aircraft and all-time elite pilots!
I must admit that the HU-16 Albatross in the background also brought back memories with my husband, Al Hansen!
Everyone recognizes the name Clay Lacy and links it to Lacy Aviation, LearJets and Van Nuys Airport.
When I think of Clay, I see his purple P-51 Mustang, nicknamed the Purple People Eater, his DC-7 Super Snoopy, the DC-8 with the Human Fly on top, and Aero Spacelines’ Pregnant Guppy.
It was two C-97s, also known as Boeing 377 Stratoliners, placed together, one fuselage above the other. This aircraft was powered by four 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial engines.
I worked air racing in Mojave and I remember Clay telling me he was going to take the DC-7 around the pylons and he would pick me up near the pylon where the boneyard is now. It was so low that the props created small eddies on the floor. I was jumping up and down and screaming; I saw a photographer dove to the ground as Clay flew overhead. I swear I could see Clay’s fantastic smile in that cockpit! It was a great day to be under four roaring Wright R-3350 radial engines!
There’s so much to say about this decorated fighter pilot who flew 105 combat missions in F-100s with the Mistys in North Vietnam, flew as a command pilot around the world, without refueling, nonstop in Voyager en 1986 with Jeana Yeager, set many flight records in her home built Long-EZ, is a fantastic motivational speaker and flew around the world again with good friend Mike Melvill in the Long-EZs they have built side by side, as part of the friendship tour of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).
The EAA Friendship Tour began when Mike told Dick he wanted to fly his own home-built plane in his hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa.
Mike asked Dick if he would like to fly in formation. Dick’s replay was: “It’s halfway around the world – why not go around the world!”
There are many Experimental Aircraft Association chapters around the world, so the trip quickly became a tour of one EAA chapter to another.
They had to plan a route that would be feasible for their small craft constructions. Finding the shortest route across the Atlantic proved problematic, but they eventually agreed on a route.
They left Mojave on April 4, 1997 and headed east. They crossed every ocean in the world, visited 14 countries, traveled more than 1.5 times the distance from the equator, and returned home to Mojave on June 24.
They flew 38,791 statute miles, used 2,108 gallons of fuel (US gallons) with a total flight time of 232 hours. Around the world in 80 nights!
Mike painted the names of all the places they visited on this remarkable flight, the date they left Mojave, and the date they returned.
Clarence “Bud” Anderson, the last living triple ace!
Bud often came to Mojave Airport with his friend Chuck Yeager, to visit Dan Sabovich (Founding General Manager of the East Kern Airport District). Bud and Chuck enjoyed hunting at the Hansen Wilderness Ranch. He was also a friend of my late husband, Al Hansen.
During World War II, while serving with the 363rd Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group in the 9th Air Force, Bud Anderson flew 116 combat missions (480 hours) in a P-51 Mustang bearing the name “Old Crow”. It destroyed 16.25 enemy aircraft in air combat, and another on the ground. Bud has the distinction of being a “Triple Ace”.
He flew two combat tours escorting heavy bombers over Europe in the P-51 Mustang, from November 1943 to January 1945.
He learned to fly at age 19, earning his private pilot’s license in 1941 through the civilian pilot training program while attending college.
In January 1942 he entered the U.S. Army Aviation Cadet Program and received his wings and commission in September 1942. He received his test pilot training by taking the AMC Performance Course (1948) and the Stability and Control Course (1949) at Wright-Patterson AFB. , Ohio.
Bud served 30 years in the United States Air Force, logging more than 6,700 flight hours, first as a Triple Ace in World War II, then as an F-86 squadron commander in post-war Korea; and an F-105 Thud wing in Okinawa in the mid-1960s. In 1970, he flew 25 combat missions in F-105s as a wing commander in Thailand during the Vietnam War.
During his 30 years of distinguished military service, Anderson has accumulated more than 6,700 flight hours. He served as a fighter test pilot and chief of fighter operations at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He participated in a number of unique test programs, including the wingtip coupling experiments and the parasite hunting program. While at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, he was appointed Chief of Flight Test Operations and later Deputy Director of Flight Test.
After retiring from the military in 1972, he joined the McDonnell Aircraft Company as facilities manager at Edwards AFB. He retired from McDonnell in 1984 and moved to Auburn, California.
I like this quote in the foreword to Bud’s book, To Fly and Fight by Brig. General Chuck Yeager: “On a plane, the guy was a mongoose. It’s hard to believe, if the only Bud Anderson you knew was the one in the field. Calm down, gentleman. A grand father. Funny. A nice guy in every way. But once you put it on a plane, it’s vicious. Shot down 17 aircraft. The best fighter pilot I’ve ever seen. He’s also the best friend I have in the world. We go back 47 years, Andy and I.
I used to sit with my husband and remind him how lucky we were to know so many wonderful aviation legends. We were always so grateful to meet these great friends.