USAF PILOT TRAINING CLASS 55-INDIA
Welcome to the Official Web Page of USAF Pilot Training Class 55-India!
We are a group of USAF
veterans who went into pilot training in the 1950’s, ending our training on
February 24, 1955. The aircraft pictured here are some of the planes we
flew during our primary and basic training.
We all started in the Piper Super Cub, the PA-18. After about 20 hours in the Super Cub, we progressed to the North American T-6G, a World War II vintage trainer. Our primary training was conducted by civilian flight schools, and we were based at several sites for this phase: Malden, Missouri; Marianna, Florida; and Columbus, Mississippi.
Graduates from primary spread to several different bases for what was known as “Basic Training.” Students were divided in those days into two groups: Single Engine Jet, and Multi-engine. This was near the beginning of the Jet Age, and those of us assigned to Single Engine Jets went to Greenville AFB, Greenville, Mississippi; Webb AFB, Big Spring, Texas; and Williams AFB, Chandler (near Phoenix), Arizona. 6 Pilots went from Greenville to Laredo AFB, Texas to complete training. The aircraft we flew were the piston-engine North American T-28A, followed by the venerable Lockheed T-33A. The “T Bird” was an outgrowth of the P/F-80 “Shooting Star,” the first operational jet fighter used by the USAF.
Multi-engine students went to Vance AFB, Enid Oklahoma, and Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, Texas. Multi students also started basic in the T-28 then did their multi-engine training in the twin engine World War II medium Bomber, the North American B-25 Mitchell (the same airplane used by Doolittle’s Raiders).
After primary and basic training, the class scattered to the winds and the four corners of the world. We did not meet again as a group until October of 1998, when we held our first reunion, attended by nearly 90 members of the original class.
In the intervening years, our members flew just about every aircraft in the USAF inventory, not to mention some Navy and NATO types. A large percentage of the class stayed in the service as a career, and most served at least one tour in Vietnam. We lost many members over the years in airplane crashes; eight of our members were KIA in Vietnam, two were POWs, and four attained the rank of General (2 one- star, 1 two-stars, and 1 four-stars). Our numbers diminish now due to the ravages of time, but we get together now and then to relive those days of youth and glory.
The period of training was definitive in most of our lives: it was a turning point, a place where we started on a great lifetime adventure that now has faded into distant but distinct and cherished memories. We have a bond that cannot be broken; we are well into the “Golden Years” but all that falls away at our reunions, when we are once again young, brave, handsome, and “The Best Damned Pilots In The World.”
In Primary Pilot Training
All Pilots began with the Piper Super Cub PA-18 above
We then tested our skill in the T-6 Texan
Those who graduated from Primary
Pilot Training advanced to Basic Flight Training
Pilots chose either single-engine or multi-engine training.
Both single-engine and multi-engine pilots flew the T-28 in Basic Flight Training
We learned the basics of formation flying in the T-28
Multi-engine pilots then flew the B-25 shown below
The pilots who chose single-engine training first flew
the T-28 and then
the T-33 aircraft shown below
Four beautiful T-33s on a beautiful day
President & Treasurer- Ron Weinert
Vice President- Carl “Chet” Rawie
Vice President- Edd G. Barnes
Secretary - Robert Klimek Jr.
Membership Roster & Website- Darrell Schmidt
Snail-mail - “Toni” Pyatt
Major General Thomas William Sawyer, USAF Ret., 83, a resident of Fort Myers, FL since 2000, formerly of Colorado Springs, CO, passed away Sunday, September 3, 2017 in Fort Myers.
I wanted to make you aware of the passing of my father, Ken Gero. He passed suddenly on 9-24-17. While going through. His office files, I found the 55-I Association info and remembered my dad telling me all about the reunions he attend. He really enjoyed getting together with his flying pals! Thanks for giving him those memories!
We have had ten reunions to date, in 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017. They have been great get-togethers, swapping old stories and reviving old memories.
I have uploaded videos of some the reunions to YouTube. You can view them by clicking on the appropriate link below. While you are viewing them you may see a little window open with an ad. Just click on the X in the upper right corner of the ad and it will disappear. (but don't click the X in the upper right corner of the video as that will close out the whole video.) The videos may pause while loading more data and that will depend on your internet connection speed. If you wish you can view them full screen by clicking on the window icon at the lower right of the video. The screen will go dark for a small amount of time while it changes to full screen. Background music will play during the video so have your sound on. At the end of each video click on the back arrow to return to this web page. Note that if you had changed to full screen you have to hit the Esc key to return to smaller screen size so you can see the back arrow. If you just close out the YouTube video you will probably have to reopen our web site to continue.
Many of the pictures in both the videos above and the .jpgs below were taken by
Russ Rickard and his sons, David & Mark. We should all thank them for their efforts.
[More reunion pictures are on links below. Several of them are more than one page.
Look at the bottom left of the border and you can click on additional pages.
When you're finished use the back arrow at the top left to return to our web site.]
(Most by Dick Arnold) 2 pages
These by Bev Janson) 3 pages
DCA Pictures (2009)
55-I REUNION 2017
Our 2017 reunion took place as scheduled at the Tuscany Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on May 23d through May 25th. We had 27 people in attendance which included 12 classmates and families. An excellent time was had by all. Since it was a rather small group we all stuck together in the hospitality room and mostly ate together and played together.
Since our group size is dwindling rapidly we decided not to try to set up a reunion for 2019. When that time approaches we will try to find out how many are still interested in another reunion and take it from there. Here are the people who attended:
Chet and Carolyn Rawie
Howard Crites and Marge
Ray Nasypany and Shiuvaun
Bob Klimek and Lucia Casale
Neil and Audry Young (Klimek's folks)
Ben and Basak Brown
Russ Rickard and Mary Ann
David Rickard (I forget which wife was there, but her name was Shelia Maybe Mark was the cook. If so Shelia was his wife.)
Rex Lawson and Mardell
Vic Fagalan and Alice
Dave and Effie Bidelman
Since our active membership is declining, your Class “wheels” have decided to quit paying for our current home page...especially since hardly anyone visits it anymore. To provide us all with the means to converse online I have established a group in FaceBook for us. The name of our group is
“Air Force Pilot Class 55-I”. I have chosen to make it a “secret” group, which requires you to be invited. That way I can publish things like our current class roster which we’d not want strangers to view. First of all you must go to FaceBook and establish an account there. https://www.facebook.com/ It’s free. Then send me an email advising me that you are on FaceBook now and let me know what email address you listed there. I will then use that email address to send you an “invite” to our FaceBook group. You need only to click on the link in your invite to go there.
Once you’re there you can make that a “favorite” page so you can find it again easily or, if you wish, highlight that URL line and copy it. (ctrl-C) In Windows you can right click your desktop and choose New..Shortcut..now paste that URL there (Ctrl-V), and give it a name you will remember. Then you just double click that shortcut to go directly to our 55-I group. I’m not an Apple guy so those of you using Apple will have to experiment on how to do it in that mode.
If, after joining our group you wish to go again to our group on your own. On the left side of the FaceBook page under EXPLORE you will see GROUPS. Click on GROUPS and a new page will open for all the groups. It would take lots of searching to find our group “Air Force Pilot Class 55-I”. But at the top of the page you’ll see an entry for Search FaceBook. You only need to type in 55-I and it will then show you our group and you can enter it.
As always your fearless computer nut (me) stands by to give you any help you might need.
Darrell R. Schmidt
(Interactive display. Click on the MAP in the upper right hand corner to bring down a visual menu of the different sites within the museum, then click on a dot within that site to view the exhibits from that camera angle and then follow (click on) the arrows. You can run your mouse over the aircraft and it can tell you what it is and in some cases you can click it and find out even more on the plane. Clicking the button with 4 arrows coming in from the corners puts you into full screen mode. "Esc" will bring you back. WARNING: Time flies when you get immersed in this tour!)
(Use back arrow to return)
Don't be confused by the line asking for web site address:
That is only if you maintain your own web site and want to list it.
NOTE: the older guest books below require you to click on open when a page appears.
(2006-2012) Have patience, it will take a minute to load.
[Most recent edit is 27 September, 2017]
(If you should visit this web site sign the Guest Book there, too)
55-I Pilots who attended the Laughlin, NV Reunion in 1998
55-I Pilots who attended the Colorado Springs Reunion in 2000
(Note: the rows are a little off due to the many steps that we’re standing on)
Front Row: Howard Crites, Ben Brown, Jim Monk, Russ Rickard
2nd Row: Warren Green, x, Ed Unser, Dick Wyatt, Darrell Schmidt
3rd Row: John Burnett, Harvey Kimsey, Dick Blair, Bob Klimeck, x, Ron Weinert, Hans Terpstra
4th Row: Ron Atwood, Pete Chinburg, Gene Cox, John Owens
5th Row: Ray Nasypany, Joe Sperhac, Lee Wolfe, Kozy Korzan, Dale Dyson, Pete Zuras, Jim Hicks, Jay Hess
6th Row: Dave Bidleman, Wayne Wootten
Pilots at DCA, 2009
Dick and Susan Arnold, Edd and Linda Barnes, Eldon (Barney) and Joan Barnes, Merle and Yvonne Bechthold, Don and Nancy Blair, George Bracke, Ben and Basak Brown, John and Jetta Burnett, Whee and Ginny Cameron, Pete and Ellen Chinberg, Bill and Phyllis Edwards. Ron Frink. Don Gierard, Warren and Grace Green, Don and Carol Hamm, Chuck Hoggatt, Hoyt and Betty Hook, Glenn and Beverly Janson. Ralph (Bud) and Mae Jensen and Daughter, Merlyn (Bud) Johnson, Ed Kane, Harvey Kimsey, Bob and Lucia Klimek, Darold (Kozy) and Holly Korzan, Armand (Skip) and Jeanne LaRocque, Ramon and Nona Lefevre, Bill and Suzie Lessard, Chuck and Pat Mielke, Jim and Shirley Monk, Steve O’Brien, John and Gwen Owens, Phil Phillips and Evelyn, RasRastall, Chet Rawie, Russ and Mary Anne Rickard, George Rowcliffe, Tom and Faith Sawyer, Darrell Schmidt, Marvin Skeen, Joe Sperhac, Bill Sturts, Ed Unser, Ron Weinert and Ruth Jordan, John Whipple, Bob and Anne Willis, Lee and Jan Wolfe, Wayne and Doris Wootton, Pete and Jo Ann Zuras
IN MEMORY OF OUR CLASSMATES WHO HAVE MADE THE FINAL FLIGHT WEST
I hope there's
a place, way up in the sky,
Where pilots can go, when they have to die-
A place where a guy can go and buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade, whose memory is dear;
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Nor management type would ere be caught dead;
Just a quaint little place, kinda dark and full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke;
The kind of place where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected, by the men she would know.
There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And the songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd flown west before.
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door;
Who would buy you a drink if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"
And then through the mist, you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen for years, though he taught you to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear,
And say, "Welcome, my son, I'm pleased that you're here.
"For this is the place where true flyers come,
"When the journey is over, and the war has been won
"They've come here at last to be safe and alone
From the government clerk and the management clone,
"Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise
Where the hours are happy, and these good ol' boys
"Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest;
"This is Heaven, my son -- you've passed your last test!"
55-I Deceased Classmates
Adkisson, Robert B.
Alexander, Billy G.
Alitz, Laverne W.
Archer, Frances E.
Armstrong, Edwin A
Bechtold, Merle A.
Belson, Joseph E.
Birmingham, Herbert T.
Bohn, Warren R.
Bondurant, James A.
Briley, James R.
Buckey, Richard B.
Burleson, Donald R, (Ray)
Clem, Sanford P.
Corcoran, Charles H.
Corbin, Neal H.
Cramer, Leonard W.
Cuccinello, James G.
Dean, Scott E
Devanney, Michael J.
Duncan, John H.
Dupont, Holbrook B.
Durst, William R.
Edwards, William B.
Ellwanger, Robert S.
Fletcher, William H.
Fontenot, Alvin R.
Ford, Clyde M.
Foster, Lemuel E.
Gearon, Joseph M. Jr.
George , Robert A.
Gimenez, Manuel Jr.
Goss, Richard D
Green, Franklin C.
Halbach, Eugene (Smokey)
Hamm, Donald P.
Hanks, Paul T.
Hansen, Tage Bolt
Hardin, Marion S.
Hartley, Roger D.
Hedeen, Robert L.
Heisley, Don W.
Hines, Prince Nolan Sr
Hoggatt, Charles V.
Jensen, Jens P.
Jensen, Orla Holm
Johns, Paul F.
Johnson, Merlyn (Bud)
Kelley, Vernon B.
Kjos, Neil A. Jr.
Lambeth, William J.
Larsen, Ole Ronald
Madsen, Erik S.
Madsen, Johannes A.
McDonald, Jerry L.
Mielke, Charles L. Sr.
Miller, Robert J.
Mohrs, Paul A.
Monk, James G.
Montalvo, Sanbenito, B
Morton, Norman E.
Nelson, Don L.
Nelson, Stanley F.
Nohl, Louis E. Jr.
Norris, Robert G.
Orban, Richard L.
Owens, John E.
Pease, Aldridge H.
Philipski, Robert F.
Pinell, Richard D.
Pyatt, Robert C.
Rogers, James K.
Saporito, Joseph W.
Simpson, Richard O.
Sligh, Charles H.
Smead, Jerry S.
Smith, Harold Victor
Sturts, William M.
Thompson, Wayne H.
Valgaeren, Georges F.
Van de Velde, Marcel
Van Winkle, Thomas R. Jr.
Ward, George T.
Weatherwax, John J.
Whipple, John D.
Womble, Floyd A.
Wooton, Wayne F.
Zobrack, Marcel J.
REST IN PEACE!