A & S Interview: Dick Anderegg
A talk with the Air Force historian.
- By Patricia Trenner
- Air & Space magazine, May 2008
(Page 2 of 2)
Anderegg: When I was a young F-4 pilot in the late 1960s, the average age of the USAF fleet was about 8 years. Today it is over 24. The first F-15 squadron, the famous Triple Nickel, activated at Luke AFB in 1974. I usually avoid doing math in public, but I think that’s about 34 years ago. More importantly those first Eagles were designed and built with manufacturing, design and technology techniques much older than that. No student of aviation was surprised that an airplane structurally failed in flight, but everyone, I think, was surprised that it was an F-15 because other types in the fleet, such as the KC-135, are even older. The Air Force will continue to deal with this issue the same way it has for the past several years—strive to retire the old and buy the new. You know, I have a buddy that owns a ’66 Corvette that he’s owned from day one. It’s a beauty, but he doesn’t race it anymore—too hard to find the parts and he doesn’t trust it in the curves.
A&S: What was your role at Clark Air Base when Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991?
Anderegg: First, it scared the devil out of me, so I was in pretty good company. The volcano was only a little more than eight miles from the west side of the base, and it exploded ten times as much ash into the air as Mt St Helen. As the wing second-in-command, my job was to head the crisis action team (CAT). The CAT planned our disaster response and directed the evacuation. We got 15,000 Americans off the base in less than six hours, and the first eruptions started 48 hours later. Too close, but thanks to a US Geological Survey Team the State Department sent to us, we had enough warning to get most away. Unfortunately, during the height of the eruptions a super-typhoon hit as well. We didn’t know if it was mudding rain, or raining mud! We lost over 100 buildings on the base with another 500 badly damaged, and the AF decided, wisely I think, to just close it down. It had been the largest US military installation outside the continental US. Almost unbelievably, no US citizens were killed, but the Filipinos nearby suffered badly and are still suffering today from the total rearrangement of their landscape by what turned out to be the second largest eruption of the Twentieth Century.