By Lt. Col. Thomas A. Duke, USAF (Ret), VAHS Member
Daedalus Flyer Fall Edition 2020
In 1962 at Hickam, as a junior captain and flight examiner in the C-124A (Old Shakey) with almost 6,000 hours of flying time, I transferred to the 1254th Military Airlift Wing (Special Air Missions) at Andrews. I was assigned to fly the VC-121A Lockheed Constellation which had recently moved from Washington National Airport when Boeing 137s (707s) joined the SAM Wing and needed longer runways.
Many of the ex-Connie drivers were now flying the 137s, and new guys were starting out in the seven Connies and came from Military Air Transport Service (MATS) cargo and passenger units. To us freight haulers, the letters MATS meant “May Arrive Tomorrow Sometime” while SAM distinguished visitor pilots lived by strict planned and published arrival times where the DVs were met by high ranking parties and ground transportation. MATS crews wore flight suits while SAM crews wore Class A Blues. MATS crews ate box lunches while SAM crews ate chef trained steward meals on china plates with shiny silverware and overnighted in downtown hotels. All SAM pilots were checked out as Aircraft Commanders who together arrived safely on time no matter the filed true airspeed. Air traffic controllers know the SAM call sign and mission and help expedite. The SAM motto is “Safe, Swift and Sure.”
To anyone who reads this tome, I hope you share the joy of an octogenarian’s unforgettable experiences at SAM in the 1960s.
Story credit: https://www.daedalians.org/
Photo credit: A young Capt. Thomas Duke was assigned as a Special Air Missions or SAM pilot at Andrews AFB in the early ’60s.