Aviation history; rich with honor at Tyndall

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

National Aviation History Month, which occurs every November, is an occasion to honor at Tyndall Air Force Base.

“National Aviation History Month is dedicated to exploring, recognizing and celebrating America's great contributions and achievements in the development of aviation,” according to a source linked through the United States Census Bureau. “Aviation history refers to the history of development of mechanical flight, from the earliest attempts in kites and gliders to powered heavier-than-air, supersonic and space flights.”

The 325th Fighter Wing may not be where it is today without the tenacity and resiliency of those who came before; those who paved the way for today’s flying missions.

“Official groundbreaking occurred on May 6, 1941,” said Peter Coffman, the 325th FW historian. “The base, later known as Tyndall Air Force Base, was developed as a Flexible Gunnery School. Tyndall’s location, which is immediately adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, was ideal for aerial weapons training.”

Students learned many critical skills such as in-flight operation of machine guns located in the aircraft nose, tail, waist, and upper and lower positions. They also learned how to conduct aircraft maintenance and proper loading and off-loading procedures of the weapons.

“The first class at Tyndall Army Air Field of 40 students began on Feb. 13, 1942,” said Coffman.

Not too long after the school opened, Tyndall had its first famous face in 1943; Clark Gable, who was a noted Hollywood film actor before and after his service, which is cited to have been from 1942 to 1945.

“Foreign-nation students also attended the Flexible Gunnery School, including members of the Chinese Air Force,” Coffman continued. “Tyndall AAF would go on to graduate 39,452 combat gunners.”

Since the early 1940s, Tyndall has been a hot-spot for fighter airframe pilot and support functions training, which went well into the 1950s.

“On Jan. 4, 1951, Tyndall started Interceptor training courses,” said Coffman. “The school began using North American F-86 Sabre, Northrup F-89 Scorpion, and Lockheed F-94 Starfire aircraft.  Tyndall also became an Air Defense Weapons Center, which evaluated effectiveness of Air Defense Command fighter interceptor squadrons. The ADWC conducted drone target, guidance, navigation aids, and high-altitude operations and training.”

“In 1958, with a newly lengthened runway, Tyndall also provided aircrew transition training for McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, and Convair F-106 Delta Dart,” Coffman continued. “Along with the ADWC in 1958, Tyndall also began hosting the bi-annual United States Air Force air-to-air weapons meet, also known as the William Tell Competition, that pitted teams of pilots and their ground crews and loaders against other teams in an effort to foster safe, efficient, fast, and effective air-to-air dominance.” 

Since 1942, the Tyndall Checkertail mission has been grounded in developing resourceful and resilient Airmen who are trained to project unrivaled combat airpower on behalf of the United States.

While Tyndall has had flying missions come and go over the years, the installation has had a long-standing mission of training and qualifying future fighter jet pilots, air battle managers, combat airframe maintainers and hosting weapons system evaluation programs.

“During the Korean War, Tyndall, which fell under Air Training Command, established many firsts, including the U.S. Air Force Air Police School, the Weapons Controller School, and the U.S. Air Force Instrument Instructor Pilot School,” Coffman said.

The 325th FW’s vision is to uphold its proud Checkertail combat heritage while inspiring airpower projection for future generations.

“The Weapons Controller School also started at Tyndall,” said Coffman. “The 3625th Technical Training Squadron’s…goal (was) teaching people the skill of Ground Controlled Intercept. The objectives of the school were to provide students with the basic principles of aircraft control; to make students proficient in controlling aircraft from ground radar scopes; and to teach students how to supervise friendly aircraft control and warning operations. This course has morphed into the Air Battle Manager’s course of today which started in 1996.”

From the very beginnings of manned flight, both men and women have pushed the boundaries of what was possible versus what could be possible. From the first manned flight in a hot-air balloon in 1783, to the Wright brothers’ successes, as well as the first United States woman pilot in 1911. The U.S. Air Force also experimented with breaking the sound barrier in 1947. Chuck Yeager, the pilot, exceeded the speed of sound.

Tyndall Air Force Base is still challenging the norm while also accomplishing mission priorities when handling fighter and support airframes, and training future generations to be operationally ready, combat-ready and to be resilient. Tyndall has had a long history of honoring a proud heritage, pursuing innovation to be better today than yesterday, being resilient above all else, and to work diligently and respectfully to cultivate a relationship for a successful partnership with the local community that supports the Airmen and their families.

Tyndall is here to stay and to succeed all expectations, fly higher than we ever have before and to contribute to an ever-lasting legacy that started on the ground but continues in the sky.