THE ARIA CHANGE OF COMMAND 

In 1967 - 1970  I was deputy chief of about a 30 plane flying organization, consisting of (20) C-135 / BOEING 707s,  (two) DOUGLAS C-118 / DC 6s,  (six) C-i31 CONVAIRS , and (two) T-39 SABER LINERS at Patrick AFB, Fla.. OUR MAIN MISSION WAS PRIMARILY FLYING THE   C-135 / BOEING 707s  TRACKING NASA AND AIR FORCE SPACE VEHICLES ALL OVER THE WORLD, WITH PRIMARY EMPHASIS  ON SUPPORTING THE APOLLO MAN TO THE MOON PROJECT. My Boss, the boss of the outfit, was a full Colonel (former Wright- Pat Experimental Test pilot and fellow QB) by the name of Oakley Baron; that I loved and hated at the same time. 

                                                   

                                    ARIAs ( Airborne Range Instrumented Aircraft) on a rare day when so many of them were home
 

One day, after our monthly (Retirement) base parade, which was held at 8:00 A.M. the last Friday of each month, with the Base Band leading the troops ( out on the tarmac where we parked the planes), Oakley said,  “You know Bob, when the band plays that Air Force song, it really gets to me.”  I put that information in my thinking cap because he was going to be retiring soon. 


The next time they had a parade (I always managed to be a bystander, not a marcher), I timed it and it took 6 minutes and 10 seconds between the time they commanded the band and troops to “March in Review “, to the time the BAND was just approaching the bleachers, where they  started playing “Off we go into the wild blue yonder”.

The next month I went back and timed it again and it was 6 minutes and 10 seconds (exactly) , when they started, “Off we go---”.

Well, my plan (part of my love / hate relationship with him) was to give him a fly over at HIS retirement ceremony at the next parade (retirement ceremonies were part of the parade each month) . No one had ever done a fly over at one of THESE parades; it was just something I thought of after I found out Oakley was a sentimental guy. 

So I called our General Davey Jones, the AF Eastern Test Range Commander at the time ( he was  famous in AF circles for being one of the Doolittle raiders) and I told him of my plan and asked his permission to do the "fly over' and he agreed.

Sometime during that month I got one of our C-135s (Boeing 707s) and a crew and went out west of the base, at about 1,500 feet, and with the TACAN, I set up sort of a banana shaped holding pattern (running north and south) at a distance that at any point in the pattern, if called to start my run, (with minor adjustments) I would be able to make an easy turn toward Patrick and be over the TARMAC in exactly 6 minutes and 10 seconds at 250 Kts (you cannot legally exceed 250 kts below 12,000 ft ---- at least in 1969 you could not).--- I proved this timing to myself, through the help of the tower, by them letting me fly this pattern and cross the field at 1,500 feet.

I then solicited the aid of our Flying Safety Officer , who had an AF Jeep with a radio in it . I told him the plan and made sure he would be available the day of the next parade. His name just happened to be Moseley, by the way. Anyhow, he was agreeable and said he would support me. I then  got with the guys in the tower and told them of my plan and when I wanted to do it. They were agreeable as long as I got no lower than 1,500 feet and no more than 250 kts (the field was otherwise closed during the parade).----- Not much more was said about it after that, except I scheduled myself, about a week ahead of time, for an 7:00 AM take off (for a training flight) on the day of the parade. 

As an aside---- Sometime early, during the week of his retirement, Oakley said to me, "Bob I would like for you to fly with me on my last Military Flight", which I considered one heck of a compliment ( he was a 30 year  Military Pilot, with a great record). Also he insisted I write my OWN Efficiency Reports, for the years I worked for him ( which you can't beat), but at the same time he could do SOME THINGS that would drive me crazy. ----
ANYHOW, during that week, with his retirement coming up on Friday, he and I and a flight engineer took one of our ARIAs on a local flight, but Oakley never got out of the LOCAL TRAFFIC PATTERN or his seat. HE SHOT 22 TOUCH AND GO LANDINGS IN A 707 ( YES, TWENTY TWO) and never once took a break, never once said "You wanta' make one Bob?".----  Not that I wanted to or needed to BUT 22 in a row! ----That was PURE OAKLEY BARON.   Oakley took every photo he had to the BASE Photo Lab and had them enlarged to his specifications, before his retirement.

                                              

                                           Colonel Baron relieved by Lt. Colonel Robert Mosley prior to Parade Day.


Back to the story------The night before the day of the parade, I called Moseley and made sure he was going to be parked at the parade and, once again,  emphasized how important it was for him to call me at EXACTLY the moment they called “March in Review”. He said he was on board with everything and would be there. I then called the General’s office to remind him (he was usually at the parades to make the retirement presentations). I could not get him but I told his Aide to remind him that I would be there PRECISELY at the time the Band started playing the AIR FORCE SONG.--- So only the General, his Aid, the tower, my crew, and I, knew about this upcoming surprise. 

The next morning the weather was beautiful, the crew and plane were ready, and we were airborne almost before the base woke up. I flew out west of the base ( cattle country back then) got into my planned “banana” holding pattern, making left hand turns, and started waiting; which was a pretty good wait because I had  purposely put in some padding, just in case something might not have gone right that morning. But, everything was perfect. ---- When Moseley called and said “March in Review” I was in a perfect position and only had to roll 90 degrees left, head due east to the base, and notify the TOWER  I was coming.

                                    


My South Pacific buzzing background forced me to get a little lower than the 1,500 feet I had promised (like maybe 1,000 ft.) and once I knew I had it made, I let the airspeed creep up a little (like maybe toward 300 kts) and I put that old girl right over the bleacher seats. I was told we were there just as the band started “Off We Go--- but no one heard much of it after that; a 707 buzz job. 
THEY SAID OAKLEY BROKE OUT IN TEARS. 

When I landed I was the Boss, because my friend / enemy had departed the base by the time I finished the flight and got back to the office. I did not need him to tell me how he felt because I KNEW.

IT WAS EXPENSIVE TO USE A 707 FOR AN “I GOTCHA” BUT I GOT HIM (  An "I Gotcha", that took 3 months to pull off).

 It has been rumored ( just rumors of course) that one Sunday afternoon, Oakley and  Bob took one of their two little T-39 Sabreliners ( twin engine jet---- forerunner of the Lear jets, etc.) and delivered Oakley's new Schnauzer puppies to 3 different buyers in the eastern half of the United States.  
Bob

Robert L. Mosley