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Dec 2000/Jan 2001

Table of Contents
The Best of the Boneyard
Pima Air & Space Museum
The T-Cart
Taylorcraft Restored
A Family Blow Up
The 69th Battalion
The $100 Hamburger
Crosswinds Grill, Las Cruces, NM
Back To Basics
Operating at Icy Airports
Hangar Flying:
Midair Collision Avoidance
SWAV News Update

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SW Aviator Magazine
3909 Central NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031
Fax: 505.256.3172
by W. DeHaven Porter

The Heckendorf family is explosive. Literally! Dad Robert loves to strafe and bomb; Mom Carleen lays and ties explosive detonation cord with the best of ‘em and brings people to tears merely by speaking into her microphone; Son Trevor chuckles with anticipation as he contemplates shooting his AK-47 assault rifle at a circling L-19 Bird Dog; Son Fielding and Daughter-in-law Holly knead and hand pack lumps of plastic explosive as though they were hamburger patties; and Brother-in-law Tom Carney delights in spending hours in the sun preparing buckets of high octane aviation fuel for enormous eye searing three second blasts. Moreover, the family surrounds itself with free spirits who enjoy jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, crashing others, blowing things up, and raising hell in general. Wherever the Heckendorf family goes, they leave behind scorched earth.

To unfortunates who have never seen a 69th Battalion Special Operations Group airshow, this family might sound like demented competition for the Munsters.
But really folks, it all falls under the heading of good clean family fun. If explosive/pyro shows could be classified as an art form, the Heckendorf family would be known as the da Vincis of destruction, the Picassos of powder, or the Bachs of blasting. Alliteration aside, this closely-knit family puts on an airshow act like none other in the world.

The 69th downed pilot act has become an airshow classic, now in its fifth year and booked to maximum capability every airshow season. Airshow organizers’ demand for the 69th, with the latest addition of a firepower demo by an A-37 Dragonfly and an OV1 Mohawk, has exceeded the organization’s logistical abilities and forced team leader Robert Heckendorf to turn down numerous airshow requests which are either too late or too far from the 69th’s Denver base. The team, which brings up to seven aircraft, and twenty to thirty participants to every show, completed twenty-four shows in 2000.
The now famous downed pilot act begins with an injured F-4 pilot prone on his collapsed chute at show center, with AK-47 armed Viet Cong closing in. He is rescued by a Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) team which includes Special Forces jumping from an UV18A Twin Otter into a live fire fight, a target marking and crash scene by a O-1 Bird Dog, strafing, bombing, and a napalm wall-of-fire by Heckendorf in his spectacular Douglas A-1 Skyraider, and a BDA, or Bomb Damage Assessment, flown by a Cessna O-2. Spectacular accompanying pyrotechnics bring the cheering airshow crowd to its feet in a fever pitch of excitement.

The eighteen-minute act and all its authentic chatter is heard on live mike by spectators. But perhaps the most emotionally charged portion of the show is Carleen Heckendorf’s announcing; including her dedication of the show to all American servicemen who did not return from Vietnam, with special words for the aircrews who gave their lives flying CSAR missions while trying to protect and rescue their brother downed airmen. The effect of this tribute, and the realistic explosive show, on veterans of Vietnam is electrifying and immediate. Many are observed weeping as they relive their own combat experiences and recall their lost comrades. Each 69th show is dedicated to fallen American warriors and sends the message that we must never forget those who gave their all, even in an unpopular and controversial war.

The 69th’s extended family includes expert infield blasters, pilots, mechanics, and other support personnel contributing their particular talents and skills to bring together a unique show. The show’s emotional effects and touching tributes linger in hearts long after the ramp is emptied and the 69th’s aircraft are winging their way back to Denver’s Centennial Airport.

For information on the 69th Battalion Special Operations Group, contact Team Leader Robert Heckendorf, P.O Box 24286, Denver CO 80224, phone (303) 782-3681, fax (303) 782-3694, e-mail

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publishing, Inc. and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.