THE SAGA OF ACRO ANDY
by Robert J. 'Andy' Andrews
This is the saga of Andy Andrews - an exciting experience I had in early 1951 on a combat mission with the 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. We were flying the F-86A Sabre, and were based at Suwon (K-13), South Korea.My story begins during my Sabre transition training at Langley Air Force Base, before the 4th Fighter Wing moved to Korea. It was during these transition flights that I gained experience in spinning the Sabre. I was 'Green 4', and we were practicing combat spread formation flying
My flight leader decided to do a loop with us all spread out line-a-breast. He was way too slow on the entry and on the top. And of course, since I was 'Green 4' and way out on the end of the whip, I was really slow. I mean really slow! So guess what? I stalled-out while inverted and spun ever so gracfully to a controlled pullout over the tree tops of Virginia. Now that was thrilling!
In November 1950, the 4th packed up and shipped out for a "short TDY" to someplace called Korea. The communists had invaded and they'd brought along the best in the Soviet Air Force arsenal - the MiG-15. The MiGs came up quite often in those early days, until they found out that we could not only stay right with them, but beat them in almost every facet of combat flying. After we shot a bunch of them out of the sky, they started hanging back, and only came out to play when they felt they had a big advantage.
I encountered MiGs only a couple of times in my sixty-one missions with the 335th, before they shipped me home in ice bags. (I had contracted malaria in July) My biggest thrill was on one mission when someone called the 'break' as we were being jumped by MiGs at our 9 o'clock position above 33,000 feet. I never did see the MiGs. But being a really smoothsticked combat ready fighter pilot at the time, I rammed the stick hard to the left, while simultaneously yanking it full back into my gut. The g-meter told me that I was pulling 10+ Gs. Wham! Away she went into a series of violent snap-rolls, with me banging all over the cockpit and my head richocheting off the inside of the canopy.
Well, you can imagine, the Sabre ended up spinning from around 33,000 feet - down , down, down!. I didn't know if I was right-side up or upside down. I fought it all the way down to 5,000 feet, and prepared myself for pulling the ejection handles.
I let go of the Sabre's control stick at some point, and that old girl must have felt sorry for me because she came out of that spin all be herself. I think I remember someone telling me to do just that - just let goof the stick and stop fighting the airplane.
I was a bit north of the Yalu River as I completed my low-level acrobatic maneuvers over Manchuria From that day over the Yale, while performing my 'acrobatic air demonstration show' for the North Koreans and the Chinese, I wore the name "Acre Andy", which I am still addressed as even today - but only by my really close fighter pilot buddies. Maybe because that Saber brought me home in one piece, they made me 'D Flight' commander, and gave me a spot promotion to Captain. Our flight tent sign read "Acre Andy's Array of Attractive Aggressive Aviators". I wonder what ever happened to that sign.
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