OTS salutes heritage with T-41 display



by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs


10/29/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Officer Training School candidates, families and special guests paid homage to Air Force heritage with the dedication of the T-41 Mescalero on display at the OTS campus Monday.

The T-41 served as a pilot training tool for more than 30 years. Col. Timothy P. O'Brien, OTS commander, said he was one of thousands who went through initial flight screening in the very T-41 on display.

"We have a chance to do something a bit historic here at our Officer Training School complex. We have a chance to recognize our heritage and connect to our past as Airmen," he said. "There are other monuments on this complex that celebrate our heritage but none more fitting than this aircraft that truly was the introduction to flight for many fledgling aviators to fulfill the mission of our Air Force to fly, fight and win. ... I believe it's important to understand your connection to the long blue line of Airmen who've come before."

The aircraft had a long history of providing initial flight screening for young officer trainees pursuing a career in aviation starting in 1965, with the Air Force eventually using them for the Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Air Force Academy and Officer Training School.

The flight screening program "enabled track-selection of pilot candidates prior to their primary phase of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training," Colonel O'Brien said.

As part of the OTS's flight screening program, the T-41 was stationed at Hondo Municipal Airport in Texas, "a lengthy bus ride from the Medina annex of Lackland AFB, San Antonio," he said.

Lackland served as the home of OTS until the school moved to Maxwell in September 1993, according to the OTS fact sheet.

"Flight screening trainees, or Fishpots as they were called, stayed at the Officer Training School while attending Fishpot training," he said. "I was one of the Fishpots. I, at one time, flew in this aircraft 77R. ... I remember the training started early in the morning and went until late in the day."

The training was detailed and rigorous, reported Colonel O'Brien. "Trust me, you did not want to be on special monitoring status while being on flight screening. It did not bode well for your future if you were. However, when or if you did pass flight screening, then you attended OTS, earned the title of officer trainee and got rid of the honorific 'Fishpot,'" he said.

In 1989, it was determined that "the T-41 was not suitable due its high-wing design and inherent limitations," recommending instead "an aerobatic aircraft able to expose pilot candidates to the rigors of follow-on pilot training environments," according to a 1998 Air Force report.

The T-41 on display was well-traveled in its service to the Air Force. Stops included Craig Air Force Base, Ala., OTS at Lackland, and the Aero Club at Maxwell. It was placed in the Air Force surplus in 2005, removed from the inventory in 2007 and installed at OTS in May.

Retired Col. Al Allenback, who also flew T-41s as part of flight screening, was surprised to see this particular T-41.

"I took my kids flying in this particular airplane," when he was Maxwell's wing commander, he said. His daughter, Annie, appeared in a Maxwell-Gunter Dispatch photograph with this craft back in 1998. He didn't realize it was the same plane until he arrived for the ceremony.

"This is a great feeling and experience," he said. "I think it's neat they're keeping it here on display."