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“Kudy Jay” flying FAC missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail

7 August 2013

“Kudy Jay” flying FAC missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail

32º 48′ 18″ N / 97° 21′ 21″ W

Kudy Jay was flown for six months by USAF FAC pilots Don Brown and Pat Sweeney during the Vietnam War.  Judy is the name of Don Brown’s wife and Kay is the name of Pat Sweeney — given the insane aspect of combat the jumbling of their spouse names made for sense or for humor. She, of course, is a Cessna O-2A Skymaster equipped for nocturnal forward air control (FAC) missions. These missions were flown well as witnessed by the many kill symbols — 78 truck or truck parks and 40 AAA sites (antiaircraft artillery) — which are rare on USAF aircraft other than fighters, giving this lady of the night even more mystique. Mystique well deserved since a “normal” FAC mission required the pilot to have situational awareness beyond belief where doing so required simultaneous use of ground maps and aerial navigation charts while communicating on at least three radios (one for the ground troops, one for the air controller and one for the strike aircraft in the area) — and the pilots of the Kudy Jay did all of this while flying at night with no lights!

Kudy Jay with FAC pilots Don Brown and Pat Sweeney photo provided by the Forward Air Controller's Museum photographer unknown

“Kudy Jay” with FAC pilots Don Brown and Pat Sweeney — photo provided by the Forward Air Controller’s Museum (photographer unknown)

The aircraft restoration is a remarkable one done by Jerry “NAIL 57” Stephan and Glenn Hill — Stephan has since passed away but having left behind a significant legacy. Not the original Kudy Jay but an accurate replica, which made use of three Skymasters, this exhibit is important for a number of reasons. First, seeing the Kudy Jay personalizes the fundamentally important though unheralded FAC pilots. Second, it has us recall those dangerous night missions over the Ho Chi Minh trail, when activity was at its greatest, and how the Kudy Jay was flown by Brown and Sweeney for six months over the Ho Chi Mihn trail. Third, the Forward Air Controller’s Museum of the Veterans Memorial Air Park has rare simulated target marking flares pylon mounted under the right wing.

NAIL 57 photo by Jim Hodgson

Jerry “NAIL 57” Stephan working on the Kudy Jay — photo by Jim Hodgson

Although we have seen O-2 Skymasters in many museums we have not seen one in black livery, such as the Kudy Jay, nor have we seen the LUU target marking flares. The LUU target marking flares may be a rare exhibit so kudos to the Forward Air Controller’s Museum! These flares were designed to mark ground targets and would burn for approximately 30 minutes. The LUU-1 burned red, the LUU-5 burned green and the LUU-6 burned maroon. Use of these flares was discontinued due to the phenomena of autokinesis (when a point of light in a black void appears to move though it is stationary). Jim Hodgson of the Forward Air Controller’s Museum (who provided much of this post’s information) states the flares would be used to bracket a target but the paraflares were more effective.

— photo by Joseph May

The “Kudy Jay” — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Cessna O-2A Skymaster “Kudy Jay” at the Veterans Memorial Air Park in Ft. Worth TX — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The Kudy Jay worked nights over the Ho Chi Minh trail so she was primarily laden with paraflares and target marking flares on three pylons with the remaining pylon carrying a rocket pod — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Mission symbols on the Kudy Jay, USAF policy during the Vietnam War was to allow mission symbols only on fighter aircraft for aerial kills, making the Kudy Jay and those who flew her special — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Mounted on the right wing outer pylon is the LAU59/A rocket pod with 2.75″ (70mm) Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR) and two LUU target marking flare dispensers on the inner pylon — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Closer view of the rarely displayed LUU target marking flare dispenser — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Five parachute flares on two pylons each with a time delay dial which were set prior to taking off — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Six o’clock aspect of the “Kudy Jay” (though a missing red navigation beacon light lens regarding the right vertical fin) — photo by Joseph May

Another O-2 Skymaster, also on exhibit in the  Veterans Memorial Air Park, is also a product of Stephan’s and Hill’s work — use “Veterans Memorial Air Park” in the search window to see images of it and more, as well as the posts about the three museums which make up the air park.

Our thanks to all for their work at the  Veterans Memorial Air Park and especially to Jim Hodgson of the Forward Air Controller’s Museum for his help with this post 🙂

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 12 May 2015 14:16

    Excellent photos. Kudos to Jerry “Nail 57” Stephen and Glen Hill for putting her together. Can’t say enough for the courage and abilities of the FAC pilots, and the backseaters in the OV-10’s. The “fast movers” got most of the credit, and just about all of the notoriety, from that cluster****, but the FACs did the dirty work.

    Worked on the O2B, BS Bombers at Nha Trang in 1969. When I wasn’t working on Shadows.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      16 May 2015 21:07

      Yes, the FACs were really in it including their living conditions. You worked with remarkable aircraft!

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