8878 George Wissler: Remembers Willy Tell 1986 and a young pilot, 13738 Captain Chris Hadfield

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8878 George Wissler: Remembers Willy Tell 1986 and a young pilot, 13738 Captain Chris Hadfield

Article by: 8878 G. H. (George) Wissler

The William Tell (Willy Tell) weapons meet was a biennial air to air weapons competition designed to be held every even-numbered year. Willy Tell consisted of fighter aircraft and weapons loading teams from the USAF, the US Air National Guard and, beginning in the mid-1960’s, a team from Canada.

Canada was the first foreign country to compete in Willy Tell and employed the CF-101 Voodoo. The meet was held at Tyndall AFB, Florida, as a live-fire exercise utilizing unmanned obsolete USAF fighter aircraft, F-100‘s, F-102‘s, F-106‘s, and F-4’s, radio-controlled subsonic drones and towed banners for air gunnery profiles.

In 1972, a “Top Gun” award for a pilot or crew from one team was introduced.

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30 years ago, Willy Tell ‘86 saw the Canadian team employ the CF-18 Hornet for the first time. The author went to Willy Tell ’86 as one of two CF-18 judges for the fighter competition.

The Hornet flight team had four pilots from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron, “Les Alouettes,“ CFB Bagotville, Quebec. Les Alouettes were the first CF-18 operational squadron.

The flight team was lead by 10045 Major Mike Stacey. The number two CF-18 was flown by a young pilot, 13738 Captain Chris Hadfield. As well, a USAF exchange pilot, Captain John Reed, flew the number three aircraft.

Each fighter team was required to fly several air-to-air profiles in which timing, flight procedures and accuracy were critical. The Canadian team flew each profile flawlessly.

Their final mission was a re-fly profile due to a previous target malfunction.

Captain Reed had already assured himself of the gunnery “Top Gun” award and Canada was poised to win the overall competition with a successful flight profile.

A looming Canadian win, flying for the first time in Willy Tell with a US Navy built aircraft, was not looked upon favorably, to say the very least, by the Willy Tell USAF contingent. Unfortunately, a 1-second weapon’s glitch during the air intercept negated the run and relegated Canada to a second place finish. A collective USAF sigh of relief could be heard throughout Tyndall AFB.

During Willy Tell ’86, Canada demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt, the top notch capabilities of Canadian pilots, Canadian weapons and ground crews and the Hornet.

A Canadian team went on to win William Tell in 1996.