Monday, August 8, 2011

Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder! Bob Crane Flies First Class with U.S. Air Force

Bob Crane, geared up and ready for his
flight from Los Angeles to Davis Monthan
Air Force Base near Tucson, AZ.
July 1967 / World Wide Photo.
When an actor prepares for a role, it is imperative that he or she gets into the character and really feels and understands the part. Without question, Bob Crane did fit the part of Colonel Hogan very well, and many believe it was a role he was born to play. The character of Hogan was that of an officer in the U.S. Army Air Force, and several scenes from Hogan's Heroes show Hogan piloting an aircraft, including a U.S Army Air Force P-51 Mustang. Bob prepared rigorously for his role as Hogan, and when the opportunity arose for him to climb aboard a real jet fighter as a passenger courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, he jumped at the chance.

Bob, who often donated much of his spare time to charity or speaking at various events, had been invited by the U.S. Air Force in July 1967 to speak at an officers' dinner at the Davis Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, AZ. His flight from Los Angeles was not aboard a commercial jet liner, however. Crane arrived at the Air Force Base via a T-33 Jet Fighter, piloted by then Captain Jerry Chipman (now Colonel) of the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.

Bob Crane climbs aboard the U.S. Air Force's
T-33 Jet Fighter. July 1967 / World Wide Photo.
Colonel Chipman states, “I remember the occasion very well. I had taken a flying helmet and oxygen mask for Bob to use on the return trip from LAX. The helmet was slightly small, which caused some discomfort. However, Bob endured the flight and presented a great talk to his military audience. I enjoyed meeting him and would strongly support his nomination to the National Radio Hall of Fame.”

According to press releases of the event, Bob was given every flight maneuver possible, and after landing, he emerged "with butterflies in the stomach and a grin on the face." It had been his first ride in the cockpit of a jet fighter.