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Bandera Courier
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2014-01-23

F-80 Shooting Star

Doug White

A few years ago I talked with a very interesting man by the name of Tex Benedict at Whataburger in Kerrville. He was so interesting to listen to about his flying career. You could tell by the excitement in his voice that he loved every minute of it.
Well, maybe not every second of it. Because he did have a close call and that is the one I wanted to share with you all. He told me that he and Mike Spaight were flight instructors at Hondo Air Base in the 1950s. He also was a member of the Texas National Guard - at Kelly Field.
He and Spaight were given the opportunity to fly the F-80 Shooting Star. The F-80 was the first operational jet fighter used by the USAF. It helped usher in the jet age. It was the first "turbo" jet powered combat aircraft. Introduced in 1945 at a unit cost of $110,000, it was primarily used by the USAF and US Navy. It was later replaced by the North American F86 Sabre.
One evening Tex and his wingman Spaight flew to Houston. They landed at Ellington Air Base, which at the time was a "Navigator Training Base,"with a 4,000 foot long air strip.
They refueled and, after eating at the officer's club, were set to depart. Tex said the ground crew was unfamilar with jet engines and left the oil dip stick loose! On the take off roll, Spaight yelled, "Bail out! You are on fire!"
The engine was shooting out flames like a roman candle. To make matters worse, Tex had a full tank of fuel and the jet required a longer take off roll.
He said he used all 4,000 feet, got the jet off, and climbed to 2,000 feet.
Then he got smoke in the cockpit!
He started a left turn, throttled back and the smoke let up.
He was able to get back to the air field but got down too fast, ran off runway into a ditch, knocking off the F-80's front nose gear, plowing the ground and finally coming to a stop!
He rolled the canopy back and jumped out and ran! Now, this was at night and Tex said the crash crew nearly ran him over.
Later the accident investigation board cleared him and his wingman. Tex said he was glad to have survived a very dangerous ordeal.
Tex had over 10,000 flying hours in his career. He later moved to Kerrville and worked as a regional sales manager for Mooney Aircraft. He also owned Tex Aero Sales.
I recently got the sad news that Donald Elsworth "TEX" Benedict passed away.
• I want to convey my condolences to the Sandidge family on the passing of their mother, Rena Scott. Her oldest son, Rob, was my classmate from the third grade on.