Skyblazers

Skyblazers F-100 Logo Patch

The history of the Skyblazers aerobatic display team started in the beginning of 1949, when three pilots from 22nd Fighter Squadron from the of 36th Fighter Wing based in USAFE (United States Air Forces in Europe) airbase Furstenfeldbruk, Germany, tried formation flights with their Lockheed F-80B Shooting Star aircrafts. They returned from Malta, when Major Harry K. Evans, who lead the formation suggest trying some aerobatics in the way back to the base. The maneuvers completed very well and the next day, they repeated this routine, so the Skyblazers history begins. Those three pilots were: Major Harry K. Evans as leader and the identical twins Lieutenants C. A. "Bill" and Charles C. "Buck" Pattillo as right and left wing. The idea to form Skyblazers display team belongs to Maj. Evans.

In May the same year the USAFE headquarters demands from the 36th Fighter Wing to create an aerobatic team with F-80B aircrafts which must operated on the territory of Europe and North Africa - the area of USAFE activities. Then to the team was added fourth slot pilot Lt. Lawerence D. Damewood and spare pilot John Patrick O'Brien (Obie) . This composition of four aircrafts stays to the disbandment of the team in Jan 1962.

The team performed its first demonstration on 4 planes in October the same year in British-occupied German base Gutersloh.

On Jan 20, 1950, 36th Fighter Wing becomes 36th Fighter Bomber Wing and in September the same year Skyblazers begin to fly on Republic F-84E Thunderjet aircrafts. Making the new planes demonstrative, the mechanics removed six 50-caliber cannons from the plane's nose and filled in the with gaps. The Skyblazers pilots used following F-84E Thunderjet planes: FS-225 Harry "the Horse" Evans - leader, FS-229 Cuthbert "Bill" Pattillo - right wing, FS-233 Charles "Buck" Pattillo - left wing and FS-234 Lawrence "Dag" Damewood - slot.

At that time Skyblazers' aerial performance lasts 13 minutes.

Until the summer of 1952 the team already has 260 air demonstrations in 12 countries with more than 10 millions of audience. In July 1952 36th Fighter Wing re-dislocates in Bitburg airbase, Germany. Then the responsibility for the team switched to 86th Fighter Wing, which flew F-84E Thunderjet in Landstuhl Air Base, Germany. Skyblazers was assigned to 86th Fighter Bomber Wing and flew F-84E until July 1953.

The two brothers "Buck" and "Bill" Pattillo who flew as left and right wings at the team (#2 and #3) traveled to Luke airbase, Arisona, where they form the Aerobatic team to the Air-Training Command. This team later becomes the Thunderbirds.

In August 1952 the Skyblazers pilots performed on loaned from Bergstrom AFB Thunderjets at Detroit Airshow.

On October 1953 the team goes under the command of 48th Figter Bomber Wing which flew F-84G based in Chaumont airbase, France. In the next year 48th Figter Bomber Wing moved to F-86F Sabre and with them the Skyblazers in May 1954 transited to specially painted Sabres. At Chaumon, all team's pilots were from 492nd Fighter Bomber Squadron and were: Capt. William Dillard - Leader and the designer of the 1955 paint scheme, Lt. Jack Benett - Left Wing, Capt. William Gilmore – Right Wing, Lt. James Reynolds – Slot and Lt. Hulen Burk – Alternate. Lt. Reynolds was the World War II veteran with 52 combat missions in Europe and former professional football star from 1946 to 1948. he also was the brother of the famous baseball legend New York Yankees' pitcher Allie Reynold.

In 1956 the Skyblazers moved again under the command of 36th Fighter Wing in Bitburg airbase, Germany.

When the 36th Fighter Wing moved on new planes F-100C Super Sabre in 1956, the team starts to use specially modified aircrafts from that modification - gun sights and four 20mm cannon removed, with ballast put back in for balance.

In the season 1960 the Skyblazers use three different kinds of smoke - white, blue and red.

In 1960 the Skyblazers created its famous maneuver. This being a slow, gear-down diamond pass that suddenly climbed about 45° in full afterburner. Neat fuel was then injected into the exhausts resulting in massive bright flames some 8-10m long trailing behind each aircraft. As the diamond climbed away, the solo F-100, when conditions allowed, zipped through under the smoke and flames from the opposite direction, trailing his own long flame. With this stunt, the team lived up to its name.

In the beginning of 1960's, Thunderbirds already flew on aircrafts with air refueling system F-100D, which allows them to fly over long distances to Europe and Africa. This makes the presence of European aerobatic team unneeded and in January, 1962, the Skyblazers are officially disbanded.

This team was an inspiration for creation of many, in fact most of such teams in Europe and Asia.

Thanks to Kelly Evans and Charlie Richeson to help increase this page.