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Category: News - Features (Archived) Created: 08/27/2005 11:51 PM
URL(s): N/A Updated: 06/30/2007 08:16 PM
BroncoFest V After-Action Report
July 15-17, 2005 - Fort Worth, TX
By Mike Whaley

Bronco 40th Anniversary Logo
A FAC Legend Begins
Putting the OV-10 Bronco into historical perspective
Forty years ago -- July 16, 1965 -- the OV-10 Bronco flew for the very first time from the North American plant in Columbus, OH, under the control of Ed Gillespie. Designed by North American to meet a very challenging set of requirements under the Light Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft program (LARA), the Bronco was a Tri-Service (USAF, USMC, and US Navy) program designed to fulfill the rapidly emerging need for a plane to control the course of the battle as well as having the teeth to do its own fighting when necessary. The Bronco's predecessor, the venerable O-1/L-19 Bird Dog, was effective, but by the mid-1960s it was becoming apparent that the kind of war heating up in Southeast Asia would be presenting many new threats. New capabilities were needed, which the slow and lightly armed Bird Dog just wasn't able to fully handle.

The Bronco was the first plane designed from the ground up for the COIN/FAC role, and it brought a unique set of features to the table:

  • A very rugged airframe that can land and take off over 18 inch high terrain
  • A crew of two so that the observer could concentrate on the mission while the pilot kept the plane out of trouble
  • Ejection seats in case the worst happened
  • The ability to carry a heavy and diverse loadout of marking rockets, attack rockets, bombs, and four M60 machine guns (later developments included a minigun and FLIR)
  • A radio suite that could talk to pretty much everyone, everywhere, in the air and on the ground - all at once
  • A cargo area that could carry four paratroopers and even drop them all vertically over one spot
  • Two reliable turboprop engines
  • Simple construction that was easy to repair and maintain while operating right on the front lines
  • Extreme maneuverability and the ability to fly slow enough to really see what was going on down low
  • Easy flight characteristics that allowed crews to concentrate on their mission rather than on flying the plane, and to effectively fly missions with only one pilot
  • Visibility unmatched by any other aircraft (except perhaps a Bell 47 helicopter)

The OV-10 was a major upgrade from both the O-1 and the interim O-2 Skymaster, though both of those fine airplanes continued to serve right next to the Bronco for many years, in the same squadrons. In short, the Bronco is one of the most versatile and effective utility airplanes our military has ever had, which has been borne out by the fact that several foreign nations still actively use the Bronco in roles similar to what it was originally designed for, and are even today performing major upgrades to keep them in service... there still isn't a direct replacement available to do all that the Bronco can do (although the Air Force's current FAC mount, the OA-10A Warthog, is arguably about as close to the original idea of the Bronco as you could get within the context of today's military environment, while the current Marine/Navy FAC/TAC aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet, is significantly less so.)

Though the US military retired all active-duty OV-10s by 1994, the Bronco continues to soldier on today in other places. It's currently in active military service with the Philippines, Colombia, Venezuela, and Indonesia, and was retired just last year by Thailand. It has also seen service with Morocco and West Germany as a target tug (they even added a jet engine to it!) The OV-10 is still being actively used in the USA by NASA, the US State Department, and the California Dept. of Forestry in missions as diverse as atmospheric research, anti-narcotics spray operations, and fighting wildfires. A few Broncos are in private hands in Belgium, France, and the US -- June 2005 saw the first flight of Rick Clemen's "Cactus Air Force" Bronco, the first privately-owned OV-10 to fly in the USA.

OV-10 Bronco Association Celebrates the OV-10's 40th Annivaresary In Style!

The OV-10 Bronco Association celebrated the 40th anniversary of the OV-10 Bronco's first flight at BroncoFest V, held on July 15-17, 2005 in Fort Worth, TX. As part of the festivities, the OBA held the official dedication of the restored original OV-10 Bronco engineering mockup, which the Association purchased several years ago and has been restoring ever since. The Association has also been hard at work on the restoration of a QF-4S Phantom 'Scooby' was also dedicated as the first aircraft in the Memorial Air Park project. BroncoFest was also special in that for the first time, we hosted flyable OV-10s right at the OBA Museum and Headquarters facility at Meacham Field. Rick Clemens' "Cactus Air Force" has a newly-restored Bronco, an ex-German B model which has been restored to a USMC VMO-2 OV-10A configuration, and the US State Dept. was gracious enough to send one of their OV-10D's which currently serves as a US-based trainer for their active overseas drug crop spraying program. Both aircraft flew on Saturday to celebrate the 40th birthday of the Bronco.

Other activities enjoyed by BroncoFest participants included a great tour of the Lockheed-Martin plant at the old Carswell AFB, which contains production lines for the F-16 Viper, F-22 Raptor and F-35 (JSF) programs... this was the first tour L-M has ever given that was hosted and guided entirely by Vietnam veterans! There was of course the traditional Friday night informal flight suit party, and a great awards dinner (with great steak) on Saturday night. The real draw was Founder's Day, held Saturday the 16th at the Museum. We estimated that well over a hundred people attended for an excellent BBQ lunch, presentations of awards for both Bronco and Scooby-related restoration efforts, and a recognition of everyone who's had a hand in restoring the Mockup and other aircraft (nearly 100 people were called up for recognition!) There was time for everyone to get up close and personal with the aircraft, memorabilia, and facilities that we have grown to encompass over the seven years of OBA's existence, and the Ready Room offered some welcome relief from the summer time heat which was in the upper 90's. There were even some nifty door prizes!

We had quite a few warbirds fly in, including several Yak 52s and CJ-6's, as well as a T-37, a T-28, Bird Dog, U-17, DeHavilland Chipmunk, and others. Rick Clemen's OV-10A got a flight in (further flights were precluded by a broken starter shaft) as did the State Dept.'s OV-10D. More flights would probably have happened except that a rain storm made an appearance, thought hat didn't dampen anyone's spirits at all... a great time was had by everyone! Saturday night had the awards dinner, and in between events, the hootch was doing a brisk business as the central meeting point for folks to do hangar flying over snacks and drinks. The PX did well, with a lot of neat shirts, hats, pins, patches, etc.

Sunday was basically a travel day for everyone to return home. Everyone was unanimous that we can't wait until they can meet again, either at BroncoFest VI, next year's founder's day, or any other excuse that can be made.

A summary of the awards is as follows (newly established awards are marked with **):

      Jim "Boomer" Bloomberg
      For much work towards the Memorial Air Park, Mockup restorations, BroncoFest planning, and a ton of other stuff!
      Jerry Stephan
      Awarded for service towards building up the OBA and the O-2 restoration project
      Gordy "Bear" Evans
      Awarded for work towards acquiring two CDF OV-10s
  • ** BRONCO HALL OF FAME - Class of 2005:
      George Gherkins
      (Posthumous) For his work at NAA in the design of the OV-10
  • ** LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT - Doctorate of Broncology:
    • Jack Ballard
      (NA Rockwell)
    • Melvin Clouser
      (VMO-2/CDF/Cactus Air Force)
    • Jack Norton
      (Garrett AiResearch)
    • Willie Schmitter
  • ** GOLDEN WRENCH AWARDS - For Aircraft Preservation:
    • B-36 Peacemaker Museum
      (Restored the OV-10 Mockup)
    • Cactus Air Force - Rick Clemens, Mel Clouser, and Lee Griffin
      (OV-10B/A flying restoration)
    • Richard "Chief" Rice
      (Yankee Air Museum - Restored the YOV-10A Bronco prototype that was destroyed in the tragic YAF hangar fire)
    • Vince Sapero
      (OV-10 #799 project)
    • Bill "Spider" Spidle
      (Leader, ongoing QF-4S Phantom "Scooby" Restoration for Memorial Air Park)
    • Jerry "NAIL 57" Stephan
      (Leader, ongoing O-2 Duck restoration for Memorial Air Park)

    • California Department of Forestry
    • DynCorp International
    • Eddie Dean Catering
    • Hillard Auto Group
    • Maney Aircraft
    • Phazar Aerocorp
    • Mike Dean
    • Melton Truck Lines
    • Scott Stephan
    • VX-30 Bloodhounds
    • Yellow Freight System

      Glen Hill

While a full and complete list of "Thank Yous" would be longer than the whole rest of this article, a few folks stand out for going the extra mile to make it a great event:

  • Doc and Debbie Lambert for arranging the Lockheed-Martin Tour;
  • Many Employees of the Lockheed-Martin Corporation in Fort Worth for giving us one heck of a great tour;
  • Rick Clements and the Cactus Air Force Crew for sharing their OV-10B/A with us;
  • The U.S. State Dept. Air Wing for sharing their OV-10D with us;
  • Carolyn Petty and EEM Worldwide for making all the arrangements for hotels, catering, dinner, etc.
  • Jim Bloomberg for organizing BroncoFest;
  • The Vintage Flying Museum for their ongoing support of our efforts; and
  • All the pilots who brought in aircraft on Saturday morning.

Again, that's only a small list.

President's Message on BroncoFest V
July 19, 2005

Bronco Fest V is a wrap. The last of the airplanes departed yesterday. Over 120 people attended the Founders Day lunch Saturday and participated in the OV-10 Mockup and Scooby dedications. We recognized nearly 100 people for their efforts in our restoration activities. Although weather reduced the number of aircraft for the fly in, we did have the Cactus Air Force OV-10B/A, a State Department OV-10D,a Raven T-28, an O-2, U-17, T-37, Chipmunk, assorted YAKs and a few others.

All in all, it was a great day. At our awards dinner, a number of people were honored, including George Gherkins for the Bronco Hall of Fame for his work with North American during the development of the OV-10, Lifetime Achievements Doctorates were bestowed on Willie Schmitter, Jack Ballard,Jack Norton and Melvin Clouser. Jerry Stephan was presented with the President's Award for his work in building the organization. Gordy Evens was given the Chairman's Award for his work in acquiring the two CDF OV-10s and our highest awarded, the Bronco Buster award, was given to Jim Bloomberg.

I am sure you will see lots of pictures and here lots of stories. If you attended you will be receiving a questionnaire so we can improve for '07.

For now, thanks one and all for attending. It was a great weekend and wouldn't have been possible without your attendance and the help of the OBA staff.

Jim Hodgson
President, OV-10 Bronco Association

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