Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Pardo's Push was an aviation maneuver carried out by Captain Bob Pardo in order move his wingman's badly damaged F-4 Phantom II to friendly air space during the Vietnam War.
Captain Bob Pardo (with back-seater 1st Lt. Steve Wayne) and wingman Captain Earl Aman (with back-seater Lt. Robert Houghton) were assigned to the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. In March 1967, they were trying to attack a steel mill in North Vietnam just north of Hanoi.
On March 10, 1967, the sky was clear for a bombing run. Both F-4 Phantoms were hit by anti-aircraft guns. Aman's plane took the worst damage; his fuel tank had been hit, and he quickly lost most of his fuel. He did not have enough fuel to make it to a tanker aircraft over Laos.
To avoid having Aman and Houghton bail out over hostile territory, Pardo decided to try pushing the airplane. Pardo first tried to use Aman's drag chute compartment to push the plane. However, turblence was too great and this failed.
Next, Pardo tried to use Aman's tailhook to push the plane. Pardo moved behind Aman until the tailhook was against Pardo's windshield. Pardo told Aman to shut down his engines; Aman was nearly out of fuel and the engine jets interfered with Pardo's plan. The push worked, reducing the rate of descent considerably, but the tailhook slipped off the windshield every 15 to 30 seconds, and Pardo would reposition his plane. Pardo also struggled with a fire in one of his own engines and eventually had to shut it down. For the last 10 minutes of flight, Pardo used the one remaining engine to slow the descent of both planes.
With Pardo's plane running out of fuel after pushing Aman's plane almost 88 miles, the planes reached Laos airspace at an altitude of 6000 feet. This left them about two minutes of flying time. The two pilots and their partners ejected, evaded capture, and were picked up by rescue helicopters.
Although Pardo was initially criticized for not saving his own aircraft, he and Wayne eventually received the Silver Star for the maneuver.