Stay Connected. Stay Informed.

The latest news and the greatest photo galleries and videos.

F-100 Super Sabre Saluted at AirVenture

By Frederick A. Johnsen

  • F-100 Super Sabre saluted at AirVenture
    F-100 veterans Dick Rutan, left, and Gen. Charles Boyd described the sleek Super Saber at a Warbirds in Review session Friday.
July 24, 2015 - It gleams with the polish and pride volunteers have rubbed into it. It is the world's only flying F-100 Super Sabre jet, a fast artifact of the Cold War on display at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015. After U.S. Air Force service, this F-100F flew with the Turkish Air Force.

Dean Cutshall flew the silver jet from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to be at Oshkosh, where two veteran F-100 pilots discussed the Super Sabre during a Friday Warbirds in Review session.

"It's the best airplane I ever flew," said Dick Rutan. He acknowledged it had some flight quirks, but it was a challenge he was willing to take as a young fighter pilot.

The first production fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight, the F-100's pitot-static data system could be optimized for accurate instrument readings at supersonic speeds or slower flight, but not both, Rutan said. The Air Force chose supersonic accuracy, even though most of its time was logged in subsonic flight. The altimeter could give unsettlingly inaccurate readings at slower speeds, Rutan observed in combat.    

The F-100 also had a hard-light afterburner that kicked in explosively. Before selecting afterburner in the F-100, Rutan said, "You'd always kind of hunker down." he described the hard light succinctly: "BAM!"

After flying ground attack sorties in South Vietnam, Rutan lobbied for service as a Misty F-100 forward air controller (FAC). He used a two-place F-100F like the one at AirVenture to mark targets for other fighter bombers to destroy. Rutan found the adrenaline-pumping excitement of challenging antiaircraft batteries in North Vietnam too much to resist; after his first dangerous tour as a Misty pilot, he put in for a second and third tour, rather than return to ground attack sorties over the southern part of the war-torn country. "There was no fine way I was going to go back to busting trees and killing monkeys again," he explained to the crowd of about 600 at the Warbirds in Review area.

On his third tour, flak caught up to Rutan on a Misty mission. Streaming fuel from a huge hole in the belly of the jet, Rutan figured he and his onboard FAC had about 20 seconds of usable flight before they would have to eject from the crippled jet.

Other fighters flew on his wing as Rutan debated igniting the afterburner to accelerate toward the coast and away from North Vietnam and certain capture. The other pilots were concerned the streaming fuel might explode the crippled jet. "We gritted our teeth and closed our eyes" and lit off that hard-light afterburner that worked, and pushed the jet close enough to the coast that the pilots could eject and ride a dinghy until a rescue helicopter snatched them to safety.

General Charles Boyd said the F-100 was his first assigned fighter, and one he would never forget. On his first flight in a single-seat F-100, Boyd said, he checked the rearview mirrors as if to make sure he really was in this high-performance fighter.

Gen. Boyd described the 1950s as an austere era for tactical fighters as General Curtis LeMay garnered more funding for strategic nuclear bombers. Even the F-100 "paid homage to the nuclear mission" by being able to loft an atomic weapon should the need arise.

Moderator David Hartman acknowledged the veterans in the audience. Gen. Boyd discussed the fortitude it took to withstand prison in North Vietnam after he was downed in an F-105 Thunderchief. What began as a tribute to the F-100 Super Sabre morphed into a sobering and inspiring look at American fliers in Southeast Asia combat.
To provide a better user experience, EAA uses cookies. To review EAA's data privacy policy or adjust your privacy settings please visit: Data and Privacy Policy.