Memories of Malden
Barracks Do you have a story to share from your time at Malden Army Airfield or Malden Air Base? We'd love to hear from you! Meanwhile, here are some memories of Malden that have been generously shared with us and may sound somewhat familiar to you. Malden Air Base pilots and instructors
C-47 Aircraft towing CG-4 Troop-Carrying Gliders
Malden August 1944—March 1945

In World War II, during the European war efforts, movements of troops often were made via C-47 aircraft (commercial DC-3 at the time) carrying and dropping paratroopers into a battle area and/or towing CG-4 troop-carrying gliders, loaded with troops, which were towed to the designated battle area where the gliders would disconnect from the tow cable and land in open areas to disgorge their troops.

Huge numbers of troops were transported and effectively dropped or landed in order to meet a specific need or opportunity on the battlefront.  Flights were usually in several formations of three planes flying at a very low elevation in order to avoid radar.  When the drop or landing sites were sited, the aircraft would elevate to appropriate levels for paratroops to jump and for glider disconnect.  Such flights were designed to surprise local enemy troops since the planes/gliders were coming in so low that they were vulnerable to ground fire; obviously, the situation could be very dangerous to planes and troops.  Many times paratroopers were dropped into areas where foreign troops had been forewarned which meant encountering heavy ground fire but were often confronted with obstacles placed in the designated landing areas and, with no power other than batteries for landing lights at night, they of course were committed to land…often with dire results.  Obviously, many men could be and were lost in such situations.

In August, 1944, in the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, the US lost a great number of crews and planes needed for the foregoing efforts so to meet the desperate need for flight crews to man the C-47’s, the Air Corps opened two fields for training Troop Carrier tactics—Malden was one of the fields.  At that time, at Bergstrom Air Field in Austin, Texas, there existed many troop carrier crews, through with their training and preparing to depart for overseas so the first pilots of those crews were rerouted to these two new Troop Carrier training fields.  I and many of my friends were thus sent to Malden and were immediately established as instructors.

The need for new crews was so desperate that many pilots who had just finished fighter-pilot training were sent to Malden to be trained as C-47 pilots and to be trained in Troop Carrier tactics.  Obviously none of the trainees were too happy about being rerouted to twin engine training and dropping paratroopers or towing gliders but, of course, they had no choice in the matter.

Shortly after arriving at Malden, I married Johnie Sue, a girl from Austin and we lived off-base in a four-apartment building alongside the highway into town.  It was an interesting time for a couple of newly-wed, nineteen-year olds.  We had an upstairs apartment with one bedroom and a space heater, which burned coal from a small pile in the backyard.  Johnie Sue had to learn to cook on a kerosene cook stove and no eating utensils could be found anywhere (plastic utensils weren’t invented yet and metal was totally restricted to tools of war) so we had to check-out utensils from the base.  In spite of such minor problems, we and our friends thoroughly enjoyed our sojourn in Malden.

    -Jack B. Hanks, Malden Army Airfield Instructor



Mary Helen (Crane) Foster went through basic training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX.  After her graduation, she was assigned to Malden.  When she arrived, she was given the task of checking out planes that needed maintenance or that had completed maintenance.  Her log book shows mostly that she flew Vultee BT-13A’s, but some other planes also.  She shared this task with a male pilot and they would typically fly each plane solo.  They would sometimes fly a plane to check out a student pilot’s complaint and sometimes to see if the repairs had been made properly and that the plane was again ready for service.  In July of 1944, the base changed over from instruction in the BT-13A to instruction for Troop Carrier Command pilots flying the C-47A.  Her log book shows her first flight in the C-47 to have been on July 13, 1944.  She flew the C-47’s for maintenance until December 20, 1944.  She had gotten permission to ferry planes over the Atlantic to England and had plenty of volunteers at Malden to fly with her as crew, but the end of the war with Germany intervened.  At that time, the surplus of male pilots released from Europe caused the Army Air Corps to dismiss the Wasps. 

An article in The Dallas Morning News stated that Mrs. Foster flew BT-13s and C-47s and DC-3s at Malden Army Airfield, MO.  She was the only female pilot on the base.  “I reported in, and the commanding officer said, “I didn’t ask for a woman pilot”.”  And I said, “Sir, I didn’t ask to come to Missouri”.  The following picture shows Mary Helen Crane on the wing of a BT-13A.  This photo was taken on her first day assigned to Malden Army Airfield.

    -Contributed on behalf of Mary Helen (Crane) Foster by Paul Chapman



Thank you so very much for the picture.  Mom and I both had a lot of fun at the two Malden reunions that she and I attended. Also allow me to tell you about two links that I have had with Mom's duty stay at Malden.  At first Mom lived with the nurses stationed at Malden while she flew and tested the BT-13  trainers known to the pilots as the Vultee Vibrator.  Many nights the girls would combine their efforts and make supper for the group.  They had a large common room where they could eat, and some nights the male medical staff would come over and all of the medical staff and other guests would eat and party.  One of the nurses was from New Jersey and had an Italian background.  This woman's mom would periodically send her a care package with most of the ingredients for spaghetti and meatballs.  She would buy whatever could not be sent in the mail and make a supper for the girls and their guests.  She taught my Mom the recipe and that is the spaghetti and meatballs that I grew up eating and enjoying.  

A second link to Malden for me was also part of this common room and the parties that took place there.  The nurses had a piano in that common area and my Mother had a radio / phonograph.  So the men and women of the medical section, and other guests, could listen to music and dance while they ate and visited.  Well, while I was a child I also listened to that same radio and phonograph.  It had a large wooden case with dials and a speaker on the front.  The top opened up to get to the record turntable.  I remember listening to children's records on it.  Recently I ran across a picture of a Christmas tree and presents with me playing on a new trike, and in the corner of the room was a table with that radio and phonograph on the table. 

After about six weeks, the Vultee trainers moved out and the base was converted to the C-47 transports.  Apparently housing was tight and Mom and a WAC officer who worked in the PX were assigned to one of the married officer's quarters.  She has several stories about learning to live there that I will give you in another letter.

Again, thanks for the picture,

Paul Chapman

October 2014



I was in personnel at Malden from September 1944 to January 1945 during the Troop Carrier glider pilot training era.  At the time of the Battle of the Bulge, things didn't look so good for us.  Practically overnight, they transferred 100,000 Air Corps guys into the infantry.  I was one of them.  I got over to Manila in May 1945 and was discharged in August 1946.

       - B. Keil


My family moved to the Malden Air Base in 1944  when I was six or seven .  My father worked at the petroleum storage area, my mother worked at the main commissary.  My grandmother took in washing and ironing from the soldiers and air cadets in order to make ends meet.  My aunt, who lived with my grandmother, worked at the base hospital as a medical transcriber.  My mother and dad had the Sunday Morning paper route on the base.  Dad would load the papers in my wagon and I would go thru each barracks selling all my papers by the time I reaches the end of the barracks.  Dad would reload my wagon and I would repeat the process at the next barracks.  I always looked forward to going into the mess hall because the cooks would serve me breakfast.  I don't remember Dad eating with me. We lived in one of the duplexes across the street from the cinder block  duplexes my aunt and her soldier husband lived in.  I remember playing in the sand spur infested grass we called our yard.  Every night my grandmother would remove the little stickers from between my toes.  I learned to swim in the swimming pool located close to were dad worked.  I remember the post chapel, NCO club, were I enjoyed my first chocolate malt.  We visited the post movie theater once in a while.  In fact we were there when the show stopped and the house lights came up and a sergeant announce the war was over.  I can't recall which war he was referring to.  I do remember asking my grandmother if this meant Uncle Earl would be coming home.  She was crying and did not answer me the best I remember.  Shortly after the war ended we moved to Marion, Ill.  My aunt had been transfer to the vet hospital as a medical transcriber.  I lived in Marion until 1992 were I retired from GTE.

Don Ray


My family lived in the pink house next to the base commander's just outside the main gate.  It was originally a part of the old hospital and was moved and renovated for our family.  My father, CWO-4, John E. Engram, was the transportation officer and remained at the base after it closed.  He was responsible for scheduling the moving of the permanent air force party officers and enlisted men.  After the permanent party left, my father closed and locked the gate.  He and I then left in his restored 1947 Chevy for Perrin AFB at Sherman, Texas.

In the summer, my father and several of the permanent party would take a group of students for a three day float trip down the Current River.  The time my family spent in Malden made up some our best memories.  We played golf, enjoyed squadron picnics, and my dad coached the AAA little league team.  We still laugh about our time in Malden.

Jim Engram



I really enjoyed my 6 months at Malden in 1956. Good people, great instructors, and friendly girls!! Flew in the ANG for several years and then spent 31 years @ American Airlines. Now happily retired and working on and flying WWII airplanes in the CAF.

    - G. B. 57M


LOOPING THE BRIDGE AT CAIRO — There seems to be much interest in the stories about someone looping the bridge at Cairo, Illinois.  Here are a few stories (with no names mentioned) and presented herein as memories only (some are conflicting):

“When we arrived in Dec. '56 there was still much talk about the student who looped the bridge at Cairo in a T-28.  He might have gotten away with it if he had not hit the water and peeled back the skin on the flaps.”

“This story just may fall into the urban legend category; although I do vaguely recall our AAA flight commander mentioning, in a safety briefing, that someone had been seen flying under the Cairo bridge.  I recall his saying that the aircraft number was not gotten, so they could not identify the pilot.”

“It is not an Urban Legend.  The instructor of the student who pulled off this caper lived across the street from me in the housing area between the main gate and the highway.  He told me about the event.  The bulletin board in the flight line briefing room had pictures of the T-28 showing some of the skin on the flaps peeled back and the outline of the ribs in the hollow prop blades visible where they went in the water.
This is the way I recall the instructor’s version of the story.  The student was a very good pilot given his experience level or else he would have killed himself in this crazy exercise.  From the time he first arrived at Malden, he became obsessed with the thought of looping the Cairo Bridge.  He drove over it in his car and flew over it during solo flights in the local area.
One day he was flying a T-28 solo and decided that “this was the day.”  He circled the bridge to look for barge traffic then backed off a long distance to gain airspeed –too much airspeed as it turned out.
He passed under the bridge just fine and started pulling up into the loop – well beyond the bridge.  By the time he got inverted and started down the backside of the loop, he had not gone back beyond the entry side of the bridge very far and he was almost looking straight down at the bridge.  He was now in a horrible dilemma.  If he did not pull enough back elevator pressure, he would go into the water almost straight down.  If he applied too much, he might either hit the bridge or enter a high speed stall.  As it turned out, he completed the loop, passed back under the bridge, just skimmed the water with the belly of the aircraft and ran a foot or so of the prop in the water for some short distance.  Amazingly, he recovered and flew the aircraft back to Malden undoubtedly a terrified young man.
After landing, he parked the aircraft on the maintenance line and wrote up the engine as “running rough.”  No doubt.  Other than the skin and prop damage, I do not know if there was indeed engine damage but I suspect that there was.
In spite of intense questioning by the administration at Malden, the student denied any wrongdoing.  Finally, I understand he was flown to an Air Force facility and given some other “help” which “improved his memory” sufficiently for the story to be revealed.  I do not know what punishment was given other than early termination of his flight training.
I do not wish to embarrass any individual.  I do not want any names.  I just think it is an interesting flying story and I would like to know more about it.  My recollection of the story was second or third hand and may be pretty fuzzy after 49 years.”

“I remember the student pilot and the bridge incident.  While stationed in Hawaii, one day my wife went to the commissary and ran into an 'ole high school friend from Malden that met and married a student pilot from the Malden Base.  We visited many times  since they lived only a block away.  One night we were talking and I mentioned to him about how he met and married the lady from Malden.  He told me that he washed out as a student.  I asked if he was there when that “dummy” flew under the bridge, he replied "Yes" I was that “dummy” that did it and he told about the "Welcome Party" that was waiting for him when he finally got the plane back to base.”

“I heard the same story when I was there in the mid-fifties flying T-6s.  I have no doubt it was done as we buzzed lakes and fishing boats trying to tip them over and one guy tried for an altitude record.  On the record I would deny it happened or that anyone in my class did anything that could be construed as a violation.”

“I cannot recall whether we were in the T-28s, or were still in the T-34s at the time.  I would suspect that it was probably a T-6, flown by one of our upper class members.  I say this because I don't think that anyone in my class had enough flying time to be that daring/foolish at the time.”

I can verify that story as the young cadet was a "table mate" in the spring of '56. It was a T-28 and he did deny any wrong doing, but the condition of his "valiant steed" belied that premise. He was considered a very good pilot and we were sorry to see him go.

     -- J.R. 


Worked midnight/8 AM shift, July 1955.  The T-28 with peeled belly skin, deformed landing gear doors and split prop tips sitting over a wet outline of the plane is fact.  The Preflight crews could not understand this.  The write up in the 781 form stated " Rough running engine." The system probably washed the student out of the program.  This could have been the best of combat fighter pilots.

Memories of The Instructors & Training...

"I could have become the first person to solo in the T-34 in our group, but I told (my) instructor that I didn't think I was quite ready - scared to death is more like it. He seemed quite annoyed but didn't try very hard to change my mind. Later that day a cadet soloed and claimed the "first" title. I soloed the next day, second in our group. I didn't think about it at the time, but now I wonder if all the instructors had a betting pool, and the instructor whose student was first to solo claimed the money. I probably was responsible for my instructor losing a nice bit of pocket change!

"This same instructor was an avid hunter. One late afternoon as we were winding up a training flight in a T-34 and preparing to head for the base, the instructor took the controls and dropped down almost to tree-top level, and we skimmed here and there over wetlands for several minutes. A very junior officer doesn't ask his instructor what he's doing, but the instructor (an exceptionally nice fellow) explained that he was looking for promising spots to go duck hunting that weekend. This happened at the T-34 auxiliary field - I think it was near Dexter.

"My T-28 instructor was named Schutt (which may not be the correct spelling of his name). He was a good pilot and a good instructor, but he had the well-deserved reputation of being a masterful butt-chewer. One day I was practicing instrument takeoffs, and uncharacteristically performed the procedure almost perfectly, reaching the assigned altitude without a waiver. "Very good, Lt. So-and-so," came Mr. Schutt's voice on the intercom, using the name of another of his students. "This is Lt. ---," I replied giving him my name. "Oh," he said. Well, I counted it as a compliment, which were rare enough and valued highly, even if it was credited to someone else."

          - L.F., Class 57-A, 1955-56


 "I was an Aviation Cadet in Class 55-L at Malden AB in the summer of 1954. My instructor was Finis Barrow and I remember him as an excellent instructor. I completed 24 years in the USAF and logged over 7000 flying hours."

            - D.D., Class 55-L, 1954

Whenever a cadet made a major mistake and others found out about it, that person got the opportunity to stand up and tell everyone else in the dining hall all about it. It served three purposes: 1. It was embarrassing to the individual so hopefully he would never do that again, 2. It was in most cases extremely funny for the rest of the cadet corps, and 3, The rest of us should also learn from this so we would not make the same mistake.


I will give you some examples: I remember one cadet tried to taxi his T6 to go fly with the tail wheel still tied down. He was using a huge amount of power trying to make the aircraft move until a crew chief ran out wildly waving his arms to get him to reduce the engine power until he could untie the tail wheel.


Another cadet tried to get taxi clearance over the radio by using the intercom switch instead of the radio transmitter button. He kept calling “Ambitious (The call sign for the tower) this is Black Hawk 27, row 4, spot three, requesting taxi instructions.”  The instructor in the back seat figured out what he was doing, changed his voice and said back through the intercom, “Black Hawk 27, I do not see you. Are you sure you are on row 4, spot three”? The student looked around then hit the intercom switch again and said “ Roger Ambitious. I am at row 4, spot three.” The instructor then said, “Black Hawk 27, take your hat off and wave it in the air!”  The student took off his radio head set, then his hat and waved it in the air. When he put his hat and head set back on the instructor said “Black Hawk 27, I still do not see you, stand up in the seat and wave your hat.” At this, the student had to set the parking brake, unstrap from his seat belt and shoulder harness, stand up on his seat, and start to wave. When he glanced in the back seat where his instructor was seated, he saw his instructor, doubled up with laughter and so were all of us in the mess hall when he related the story to us.


Other accounts involved getting lost on cross country flights, bad landings, things like that. One of my favorite stories involved a cadet who was scheduled to fly a T6 on a solo practice flight as soon as an aircraft became available. Some of his classmates noticed a T6 without a propeller parked nearby. They ran up to him and told him that he had just been assigned that airplane to fly. The cadet grabbed his parachute and raced out to the aircraft, gave it a very quick pre flight inspection, strapped in and was just about to start the engine, when the crew chief walked up to him and asked him where he was going without a propeller? The cadet looked around and off to the side were all his classmates were rolling on the grass with laughter. He knew he would be speaking in the mess hall that night. These various accounts did not happen every night or even every week but when they did, they brought great amusement to the rest of us.


Larry Steed, Class 56-B

"I remember when we would be in lineup (in the) early morning and the upper classmen would haze us. One question they would always ask: "what was showing that day at the theater?" Of course, we would not have had the time to check. All of my class agreed to say "Strange Love with Boris Carloff and Shirley Temple" knowing they had not looked themselves. Then after drill, before the next formation, one of us would quickly check the theater and pass the word so when they asked again we knew the answer. This went on for the whole time at Malden for our class."

          - Guy, Class 53-B

 "My instructor, Mack Hogan, was about to wash me out of instrument training. He called me into the flight shack and said in my pattern A and Bs I seemed to always be drifting up and to the right. He then asked me to go through everything I did from the time I got in the T-34 until I got out of it. In the course of explaining, I mentioned that, when under the hood, I sat back in the seat with my left hand on the throttle and my right on the stick. He smiled and said: "That's the problem." I asked him "what do you mean?" He explained how my arm would get tired extended out like it was and suggested I rest my right elbow on my knee. He was so sure we went back up and sure enough it solved the problem. From then on IFR was my favorite way to fly. What a great instructor!!! I remember going to his house and sampling honey he had gathered from a local beehive in a tree."  

            - D.I., Class 56-T


When I was at Malden in Class 53-G, Instructor James S. Campbell invited me to his home for Thanksgiving dinner--I never had forgotten this.

   -- R. Van Sickle Class 53-G


To Jim Summers - Flight Instructor "Extraordinaire"Ode to Malden AFBFolks said at Malden,"Strap on your chute"- That was profitable, 'Cause the girls thought we were cute. Initially landings were not always smooth, It was challenging at first, trying to get in the groove-'Stage' points were high, in the bouncy beginning, (and, in addition), Cadets had to be 'caged' to keep them from sinning. The Runways were smooth-or so we were told,And the conscientious Instructor had to be bold - While a good landing was always in mind - Alas, the Runways were not always so kind. But, with some 'sweat' and a few "Oh My Gods"We somehow managed to defeat the odds- We all do have great thought son those years gone past,And through it all, The indomitable Instructor was the best!

    -- Phil R. (Class 52-F Sept 51--Sept 52)


Some of the most memorable times of my life were spent at Malden under the tutelage of Mack Hogan--a truly wonderful flight instructor.  Capt. Monroe was our Commanding Officer.  Although I did not pursue the military as a career, I did apply much of what I learned about trust and camaraderie as a Cadet to my life and the discipline learned has proved to be most helpful.  About Malden, all I can say is "Good Times".

-D.I. Class 56-T

I was an Aviation Cadet with 55-A Class, the best time of my life was in Malden AFB. I remember one funny thing I was the first Cadet to be a member of the Malden Ladies Club. I was graduated with 57B Class in Reese AFB. This year (2007) we have our 50th Anniversary.

I am retired from the Peruvian Air Force with the rank of Colonel.

  -- R.V. Manrique Class 55-A


"Unlike most of the fine folks that have posted here, I was not a pilot at Malden. Indeed, I was one of the little brats playing in the dirt while those bright yellow airplanes circled endlessly overhead. My dad, Ernie Hartland, was a mechanic at Malden from about 1953 until its final closing in 1960. I have many, many fond memories of those days.

We lived on the base in the cinder block barracks that had been converted to civilian housing. My Dad would occasionally sneak us into the mess hall on Sunday as a special treat or let me “fly” a Link Trainer (with the hood up), or maybe take a ride out to the dump in an old WWII Jeep. I remember a C-47 making an unscheduled landing on the officer’s golf course. Later, when the base was closed and we were one of only about five or six families left, running naked across that golf course through the sprinklers in the middle of the day – wild and free and all of nine years old!

There were three irrigation ditches (Ditches 1, 2 and 3) to the east of the base, past the Cotton Hill Grocery store, where I used to walk alone and barefoot down that dirt road to catch sun perch off the bridge with my cane pole. Mom would make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Mason jar of Kool Aid to take with me.

Those were sweet, innocent, carefree times. I often wish I could go back. Before TeleStar, The Beatles, Kennedy, Vietnam, acid rock, acid rain, global warming and the hideous face of modern subculture. Malden Air Base will forever occupy a special place in my mind."

        - - K. Hartland, Son of Mechanic Ernie Hartland

 "There was a cafe across the highway from the MAB entrance that some of us visited occasionally when we wanted an alternative to mess hall food. One day I ordered a hamburger
and told the waitree to "cut the onions." In Texas that means don't put onions on the burger. What the waitress brought me was a hamburger with the onions shredded like cole slaw!"

           - L.F., Class 57-A, 1955-56


"I was a student in Class 54 Quebec. We were at Malden from September 1953 through March of 1954. I went from there to Webb AFB, Texas, and wound up flying fighter-interceptors for most of my career. I retired in 1972.

I have many fond memories of Malden. I recall a pretty young girl who I dated while I was in training there. I recall that W.S. lived on a small farm near Dexter. Nostalgia demands that I know if she is still around and what may have happened to her. Like everybody whom I met in Malden, she was a fine person." (Note to W.S. - contact MAAPS and we'll try and get you and J.C. together to catch up on old times!)

          -- J.C., Class 54-Q, 1953-54


 "During my stay at the base I recall Missouri had free grazing laws which meant that cattle could freely cross the highway and if hit, had to be paid for by the driver. On numerous occasions students during their night time weekend driving would hit a cow. The following Saturday at the weekly meeting of all the students in the base theatre, that student would be called to the mike to explain to the group why and how he hit the cow!"

          - H.D., Class 56-B, 1954-55

Mess Hall at Malden Air BaseWhen I first started working at MAB I was l8 years old and started on the flight line - recording air time and also taking minutes on aircraft accidents.  I worked for Major Voss and he conducted all of the investigations.  I worked there until it closed and then I went to the commissary and worked until the end of December in l945. 

I did all of the shorthand (verbatim) no machines, nothing but a pen or pencil and Major Voss told me if they got too fast on their explanations of what happened that I should kick his shins lightly.  One Monday morning I was having a bad day (remember I was a teenager then and catting around a lot at night) so I just kept kicking his shins.  About l0:30 he asked for a break and called me aside and wanted to know "what in the hell is wrong with you today",  I shaped up after that.  I have a lot of fond memories of that base and it was certainly a new experience for a little old country girl that had made a few trips over Riddle Hill into Malden and that was about the extent of my traveling 

I distinctly remember one of the cadets crashing in a woods west of Malden (near Riddle Hill) and I had to go out with the aircraft accident investigator and we talked to farmers and I put my old typewriter on the top of a hay trailer and I took statements and typed them up in the barnlot and the people signed them and we went on our way and held our investigation later.

I worked on the flight line again after Mr. Anderson came there.  I worked for the Director of Flying and the Aircraft Investigations Officer until I left there in 1953.

     -- L.K.


My father, Maj. Joe Valles, was a young Air Force Lt. and instructor at Malden in the early 50s, and my mother, Annette, was well known on the base for her vivaciousness and practical joking (as well as her long hair and Southern accent).  She often recalled how she dressed up one Halloween in a flight suit and visored helmet, then visited all the married cadet's homes where she pawed all the cadet's wives!  After the initial shock, there were laughs all around when she took off the helmet!
I came along later, but I remember we often returned to Malden in the early 60's to visit the base cafeteria's chief, Giz Blanton and his wife Sophie, who were old neighbors.

My father later was a command pilot flying B47s at Schilling with the 40th Bomb Wing and then flew MATS missions to Vietnam and finally ran Base Ops at Yokota AFB, where he sometimes encountered his old Malden cadets as they passed through on their way to Vietnam.  He passed away in 1982, and my mother in 2005.  I hope they are not forgotten.

   -- Joseph Valles, Son of Maj. Joe R. Valles, USAF

I was at Malden in 1944 for C-47 Transition Training and while there met my wife...She was from Kennett.  We married Oct 16 1944...Still married...I returned to Malden as a Ground School Instructor in 1951 and left in 1959.  I also owned and operated Polly's Jewelry, next door to Willy Millers Men's Store...Bill Norrid bought my house when I left...MEMORIES!

    --J. Contino


T-6 Gear Check via a Control Tower Fly-By

by Lt. Col. (then Captain) John Larrison (USAF Ret)

It is not uncommon for an aircraft to request a Control Tower fly-by to have the tower provide a “visual” check of their landing gear position when the pilot questions the cockpit indicators.

The following story took place in the early 1950s at Malden Air Base, Malden MO, when it was a Civilian Primary Pilot Training base flying the T-6.  This was the original T-6, not the current Turbo-prop T-6.  The  T-6 had visual indicator to backup the electronic Landing Gear position indicators.  This was done by showing a simple “Down Locking Pin,” in the leading edge of the Wing.  The pin could be seen from the cockpit and provided a positive visual indication to the pilot. 

This story was told by our Primary Pilot training Flight Commander during my  Class 59-H training at Malden AB.  He and one of the other instructors had been assigned control tower duty and were monitoring overall flight operations. 

It was a clear day and everything was normal.  That’s when they got the call from a solo aircraft.  They knew he was solo because of the call sign used.  Solo students used their call signs while Dual (student with an instructor) aircraft used the instructor’s call sign.  Tower personnel naturally gave solo aircraft more attention than a dual aircraft.

The solo student, on the radio, told them he could not see the Down and Locked indicators on his aircraft.  A condition which is not totally uncommon with a T-6 aircraft. 

But, with a solo student, it called for a visual inspection to confirm the students reported condition. 

A tower fly-by would permit that visual check.  The Student was instructed to bring the aircraft by the tower so they could look check the landing gear position.  After several minutes they had not seen the aircraft fly by.  They called him, “when  would he come by.”  He informed them that he had been by. How could they have missed him?  He was asked to come by again.  This time they monitored the horizon with the field glasses watching for him.  After a suitable period of time, he was called and asked when he was coming by.  Once again they were told that he had been by.

Things now had become very weird.  Two passes and they had not been able to see him.  New instructions, “Rev” the engine rpm as he comes by so they can hear him.   Both instructors picked up their field glasses and went out on the tower walkway, which ran around the control tower.  With their field glass scanning the complete 360 degrees, it was only a few minutes when they heard an engine revving.  But, no aircraft in sight.  But, the sound was coming from below.  Looking down, they saw a T-6, which had been taxiing back and forth on the ramp taxi way just below the Tower.  Moral of the story, don’t make assumptions.  The student had been doing his “Pre-Start - cockpit checks” when he noted he could not see the aircraft’s Gear Down & Locked pins and called the Tower. The Flight Commander had assumed he was in-flight.

J. Larrison Class 59-H



We want you to know that our time in Malden, both base and town, were special. Although over 50 years have passed, we continue to value our time in the boot heel.  Invited to a party by townspeople shortly after arriving, the men asked the men to join them in the back of the house for a "libation."  We still remember that word!

Dick graduated from Malden and then went to Webb, receiving his wings in November 1960. He flew the KC-135 as a co-pilot, pilot, and instructor for many years, and was the first tanker pilot to be accepted to the B-58 Hustler program.  In Viet-Nam I flew the EB-66,  and then to the Social Actions Training School in San Antonio, then back to tankers as an Ops Officer, and then, just before retirement, as a CAP Liaison Officer for the State of Kansas. Retired in 1981, I attended Seabury-Western Theological
Seminary, Episcopal Church. I was ordained a priest in 1984 and still serve, at age 73, as the Vicar, St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Yucaipa, CA.  Our three children Dede, 49; Rick, 48; and Matt, 46; teachers, symphony orchestra conductors and technical writers. Joan and I are celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary on Sept 9, 2010.

Peace and love to all,

Dick Wagner CLASS 61-D


I have fond memories of Malden Army Air Field, because I was a member of one of the first classes to train at this base in 1943. My class was 43-J.  It was seldom that I could venture into the town of Malden, but I have have vivid memories of my weeks at the base.  Some memories are good; some are not to good. It would be great to return to your area and relive some of them.  My instructor was Lt. Finch. I know he would be totally surprised to learn that I completed my tour of duty with the 15th Air Force in Europe as an Ace, credited with 6 aerial kills, 6 planes (German) and 12 locomotive destroyed by strafing. I think he had some doubts that I could earn my pilot's wings.  I had little contact with the people of Malden, but I remember them as hospitable, eager to help the military, and filled with patriotism.

Best wishes to the Malden Army Airfield Preservation Society.

Barrie Davis

Colonel (ret)


Now here’s a story, all true of course, of a typical day on the Malden AB flight line as best I can remember. I was a member of the Fireball flight. You may know the Fireballers; they were the ones assigned a Billy goat as a mascot. Of course, one day some wise guys from another flight kidnapped Billy and while they had him altered some of his anatomy with red paint then paraded him around at happy hour to humiliate our flight. Talk about cruelty to animals!  You might also recall that Ken Woods and Jim Quenichet were flight instructors for the students of that flight. Two great instructors!  And by coincidence, when I arrived in Malden for training I rented the house next door to Jim, 407 Washington, if I remember correctly.  I was really surprised to discover I had worked in Memphis branch of the Tennessee Welfare Department for Jim’s sister of whom he was fond, although he was quick to educate me that the name was pronounced, “Quin a shay” not “Quin net chit! ”, as she preferred. But it turned out that Ken would be my instructor and on the morning of this story. After the usual table discussion of the lesson, he directed me to check out a T-28 and have it running; he would be along shortly to join me for instruction. Then, by chance Jim Q was sitting in the 28 next to me behind one of his students doing a preflight.  I began the start sequence on the big 800 horsepower Curtis Wright, R-1300 radial engine. I pressed the primer and start buttons, the prop began to rotate and on about the second turn a muffled explosion accompanied by flames pouring out around the nose signaled I had committed the rookie mistake of over priming. My finger was still on the start button when I looked up out of the left side of the cockpit to see my fire guard drop the hose and take off across the ramp.  The prop still turning, my finger must have been frozen on the start button, my gaze continued to my right to see Jim in the next aircraft, a determined look on his face and a fore finger and wrist spinning around urging me to continue cranking. Turns out he was right, momentarily the engine started, the big prop blew out the flames and I could breathe a sight of relief.

Ken arrived. We took off and finished the flight training. I neglected to tell him of the preceding incident. In fact he didn’t find out about the unusual start until later that morning from Jim.  Ken, in his usual, once on the ground, casual fashion only said, “You didn’t tell me we were flying a cinder box?” If you remember Ken, in the airplane, it was always best to let him do all the talking.

Years later I ran into Jim down at Twinkle Town airport in Mississippi where he worked as an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. His long career was honored by having a high altitude intersection was named after him.

Thanks to all the Anderson Air Activities and Malden community folks that made fifty years of military, airline and corporate flying possible for me.

Rod Lee 60D
More Memories on Page 2
Malden Army Airfield Preservation Steering Committee
Malden Industrial Park Office
3077 Mitchell Drive
PO Box 411
Malden, Missouri 63863
Phone: 573-276-2279
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