TICO 2014 with Tony McFarr

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Another TICO has come and gone.  Sometimes the people you meet are more interesting than the show itself.  So as I’m coming in from the parking lot lugging literally a ton of gear; a golf cart stops and asks if I need a lift, and I take the ride.   I start chatting with the driver, who was a new member of the Valiant Air Command.

His name is Tony McFarr, he’s a retired USAF NCO who served as a PJ in Vietnam.  For those not familiar with his profession, when you eject from your airplane and need rescued, the man who comes down the hoist from the helicopter is a PJ.   The pararescue man is a jack of all trades and master of them all.  He can swim like a Navy Seal, he can administer first aid like an emergency room technician, he can cut you out of the airplane, and he can fight like Rambo.  Needless to say once he’s on the ground, you are pretty well rescued.

That’s what Tony did.  I asked him about how they operated in Vietnam.  When the planes took off for a strike aircrews were briefed about “safer” areas to bail out over which would increase chances of their recovery.  The rescue helicopters would follow the mission so they were in the area when needed.  Tony did that in Vietnam.  He did it pretty well too.  On my ninth Birthday, October 6th, 1969 he earned the Silver Star….


The President of the United States takes Pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to Anthony J. McFarr, Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an HH-53 Rescue Crewmember on 6 October 1969. On that date, Sergeant McFarr courageously participated in the successful extraction of five downed American aircrew members and forty-six indigenous Army troops from an area under direct attack from hostile forces. He provided suppressive fire to protect both his fellow crewmembers and the survivors, and voluntarily exposed himself to heavy ground fire while helping the survivors to board the helicopter as mortars were impacting within fifteen yards of their position. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Sergeant McFarr has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.


Of course Tony didn’t stop after he retired from the USAF, he went on to work for NASA, where he was the Chief PJ on the Space Shuttle Program.  When the Challenger came down in 1986, Tony was first on the scene in the rescue helicopter.  There wasn’t anything to rescue but they only served to mark the spot where the main cabin impacted until boats could arrive.  They hovered a long time waiting while parts  of the Shuttle fell all around them.  The rest is history.

Tony McFarr, thank you for your service….  And thanks for the ride buddy….

The TICO show was similar to last years (no Thunderbirds this time).   Flybys by the F-104 and A-4 where probably the highest points for most of the crowd.  There was a P-51 acro demonstration.  While well performed it didn’t grab the crowd’s attention like ones done in prior years by Scott Yoak in his P-51 Quicksilver.  If you ever get a chance to see him, go.  He flies a low, fast in your face kind of show that you don’t forget.

For me the best part of the show was Greg Connell in a Pitts Model 12.   For those not familiar with a Model 12, it’s an amazing airplane.  This was the last design by Curtis Pitts Model 12, it has a 450HP radial in an airframe thats slightly scaled up from a “normal” Pitts.  It literally blows the monoplanes away.   Watching the show you could see Greg pulling the power back on vertical penetration to keep within sight of the crowd.  The Model 12 has a power to weight ratio greater than 1:1 which means it can accelerate vertically.  It’s awesome.

The rest of the show went off flawlessly in very nice weather.   The smooth show was a direct result of months of hard work from countless members of the VAC, combined with years of experience.  Next year when it’s time to start off the airshow season and get away from the northern cold.  Head to Titusville for a great weekend.

You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark1@GMail.Com.


Mark Hrutkay

Mark has been a member of the International Association of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) for several years and attends all their events and seminars. He has won several awards for his work and has been published in several aviation magazines, domestic and foreign. You can contact Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

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