Pearl Harbor museum dedicates plane to historic pilot

Pacific Aviation Museum dedicates F-16

By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: September 28, 2017

(Tribune News Service) — The 42nd airplane obtained by the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, an F-16A Fighting Falcon, was dedicated Wednesday to a former Hawaii commander who made history with the first “MiG” kill using the F-16.

Retired Air Force Gen. Gary “Nordo” North, who served as commander of Pacific Air Forces from 2009 to 2012, was an F-16 pilot in 1992 when he downed an Iraqi MiG-25 that crossed into the southern no-fly zone. The MiG-25 was a Soviet-built jet fighter.

On Dec. 27, 1992, Iraqi fighters flew south and then raced back above the 32nd parallel — the demarcation of the no-fly zone — when confronted by American fighters.

“The Iraqis were testing us,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Remington, who spoke about some of North’s accomplishments. The fourth time that Iraqi fighters came south, North and his wingman were there to challenge them.

“Gary — Nordo — was in their way,” Remington said. “Nordo had the first advanced medium-range air-to-air missile kill from an F-16 ever.”

The museum on Wednesday unveiled the 1980 F-16A, freshly repainted in four shades of gray, with North’s name below the cockpit.

Local philanthropist Dr. Lawrence Tseu, a well-known dentist, was recognized for paying the transport cost to get the fighter to Ford Island from the West Coast.

“Dr. Tseu provided the impetus and the financial support for the transportation,” North, who came in from Texas, told dozens in attendance. “And so this, sir, is really your airplane. I will say that you will never find a kinder man. (He has) a heart of gold.”

Tseu said he made the donation, also given in the name of his late wife, BoHing Chan Tseu, for his friend, North, who he met when North was in command in Hawaii.

“If I’d realized this would be such a great event, I wouldn’t have come,” the 86-year-old joked. “I’m actually an introvert.”

Tseu, who grew up poor in Kalihi and later served in the Air Force, also thanked businessman and political figure John Henry Felix for coming to the event after Felix flew in from London.

“We met each other when we were 9 years old,” Tseu said. “We shined shoes, (sold) newspapers and dived for coins on boat days back in 1941.”

The Pearl Harbor museum already has an F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle. “This (the F-16) is really the next generation of fighters,” Ken DeHoff, the museum’s executive director of operations, said after the dedication and Hawaiian blessing. “The F-14 and F-15, they are big, they are heavy, they are multi-engine airplanes. This (F-16) is small, this is nimble.”

DeHoff said he’d had his eye on the F-16 for five years, which had been moldering in the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base aircraft boneyard in Tucson, Ariz., for decades. The National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio gave its blessing for the fighter to be on permanent loan to the Pacific Aviation Museum.

“The Air Force said, ‘If you want it, it’s in the boneyard,’ and so we went in, dusted off the cobwebs, pumped up the tires, and literally wheeled it off the field,” DeHoff said. “We had to get it off the Air Force base before we could start taking it apart.”

It was crated, delivered to Long Beach, Calif., and shipped to Hawaii by Matson.

North noted that the F-16 is still being made. He logged over 3,700 hours in the aircraft.

“It is a legacy platform that has brought many of us home,” he said.

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Air Force Gen. Gary L. North