Saluting Military: Warbird Pilot Profiles

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
NOVEMBER 15, 2013

The University of Oklahoma is proud to welcome 200 members of the Oklahoma Army National Guard to Saturday’s home football finale vs. Iowa State. These troops will be participating in pregame ceremonies as part of the Oklahoma National Guard’s sponsorship package with OU Athletics and Sooner Sports Properties.

These military men and women will participate in pregame ceremonies during the signing of America the Beautiful and the National Anthem. Members will take the field to salute the flag as well as hold the colors in the North End Zone. The OU Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC will also display the colors. Fans should also expect special pyrotechnic salutes during the National Anthem as the Tulsa Warbirds will fly overhead.

The Pride of Oklahoma will conduct a patriotic halftime salute, including a military medley to honor each branch of the armed forces. The halftime show will conclude with a stirring rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Throughout the game, SoonerVision will honor Oklahoma’s military personnel serving around the world. In addition, the flag of the United States will be proudly displayed on all locations at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium where OU school colors are customarily flown. recently caught up with Colonel Paul "Smack" Mackey who is the lead pilot of Saturday’s pregame flyover by the World II era Tulsa Warbirds. Paul owns 29 years of military service, including missions in F-16s patrolling the “no-fly” zone in Iraq.


Q: How did you get involved in flying historic military aircraft?

A: “Well there’s kind of a song that made it around the fighter pilot world before I retired and the refrain was, ‘I’m addicted to adrenaline and speed.’ So when I quit flying the fighters the first airplane I bought was a Stearman. The joke about it was, ‘How do you fly a Stearman?’ which is an 80-mile an hour airplane, and old World War II plane. [How do you fly it] after you flew an F-16 and I said, ‘Well, I divide everything by 10.’ So it’s its own kind of rush because these old airplanes are very challenging to fly.”

Q: What’s the toughest part about flying an antique plane like OU fans will see on Saturday?

“Landing it. I’m serious these old Stearmans, actually Norman was a Stearman training base (Max Westheimer Airfield) was a World War II Navy Stearman training base. They called that airplane the ‘Yellow Peril’ and it was specifically called that because of landing, so it’s really tough to land.”

Q: Are there any particular challenges about flying over a stadium full of 85,000 OU fans?  

“Trying to nail it in a couple of seconds in front of, how many people, and if you hit it, you’re a hero and if you don’t, you’re a goat. So just the excitement of that. Believe it or not, we can’t even see the stadium when we go over it because of the way we fly in formation. So for about the last mile it’s just kind of blind.

“But what I really like the best about it, and there’s only one way to experience the sights and sounds of a World War II trainers and that’s by us doing what you guys let us do for the National Anthem. I know it means a lot to people who had dads, and I mean they flew these in the military up until the late ‘50s, so we still have a lot of guys who flew them.”

Q: What was the scariest situation you ever had flying an F-16?

“I punched out (ejected) down by Hugo, Oklahoma. The airplane broke so, got it restarted twice and finally bailed out. That was noteworthy. The second most noteworthy thing was during the no-fly zone enforcement, we were told it was the hottest day out there (in terms of enemy fire) since the first Iraqi war where they shot the most surface to air missiles at us so it kind of felt like you were in the middle of the Fourth of July. So those two would stand out. But over a career of, I flew for about 25 years, I could spend all afternoon telling you how many times I about had a heart attack flying.”

Q: Did you ever have to land an F-16 on an aircraft carrier?

“Nope, never did that. I’ll tell you what, my hat’s off to those guys. We’ve deployed with them and I saw the attitude they take when they had to go back from a 10,000-foot concrete strip to that aircraft carrier we had over in Georgia at the time and it’s serious, serious business for them. I can’t imagine, there’s nothing  in my experience that would correlate to that, not like that. Not things they do routinely.”

Q: What’s your connection to the University of Oklahoma and what’s your favorite OU Football memory?  

“My son went to OU on a Pride scholarship so one of my favorite memories … I watched some of my son’s contemporaries, Rocky Calmus, play while Kurt was on that Pride scholarship. I spent a lot of time at football games then, in the past. So I don’t really have a favorite part, it’s just brings back good memories of good traditions, that’s all.”

Meet Your Warbirds Pilots

warbird pilots

From left to right: Fred Reufer, Mike Hahn, Charlie Sublett, Paul Mackey, Steve Campbell

Lead Pilot – Colonel Paul "Smack" Mackey

Oklahoma Air National Guard, retired
Home:             Creek County, Oklahoma
Service: 29 years of military service as a fighter pilot
Multiple combat deployments to the Iraqi “no-fly” zone
Current mission: Pilot for American Airlines
OU Note: Son, Kurt, played in The Pride of Oklahoma

Right Wing – Navy Commander Steve "The Quack" Campbell

Home: Tulsa Oklahoma
Service: 15 years in the U.S. Navy
Active duty during Vietnam War
Current Mission: Clinical Professor OU Tulsa Medical School
Physician in Tulsa
OU Note: OU undergrad and OU Medical School graduate

Left Wing – Major Fred "Reef" Ruefer

Home: Muskogee, Oklahoma
Service: 10 years in the U.S. Air Force
Active duty during Vietnam War
Current Mission: Physician in Muskogee
OU Note: Associate Professor OU Medical School

Right Solo – Major Mike "Honyocker" Hahn

Home: Shawnee, Oklahoma
Service: U.S. Air Force Reserve retired
20 years of military service as a fighter pilot stationed at Tinker AFB
Combat deployment to Bosnia
Current Mission: Pilot for Southwest Airlines

Left Solo – Lieutenant Colonel Charlie "Arlo" Sublett

Home: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Service: U.S. Air Force Reserve retired
28 years of military service
288 combat missions over Vietnam
Current Mission: Attorney (Tulsa)

Slot – Doctor Jim "Griff" Griffin

Home: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Pilot and Warbird enthusiast for over 30 years
Current Mission: Partner – Tulsa Bone and Joint

Stinger – John "Espo" Esposito

Home: Tulsa , Oklahoma
Pilot and Warbird enthusiast for over 30 years
Current Mission: Owner – Espo Fire and Water Restoration (Tulsa)

Woodhead Ground Safety

Ground Safety coordinatorStaff Sargent Ken "Woody" Woodhead

Service: Four years in the U.S. Air Force
Active duty during the Vietnam War
Current Mission: Owns and operates a medical billing office (Tulsa)

Meet Your Warbirds Aircraft 

t-6 front

The North American T-6 Texan two-place advanced trainer was the classroom for most of the Allied pilots who flew in World War II. Called the SNJ by the Navy and the Harvard by the British Royal Air Force, the AT-6 (advanced trainer) was designed as a transition trainer between basic trainers and first-line tactical aircraft. It was redesignated T-6 in 1948.

In all, the T-6 trained several hundred thousand pilots in 34 different countries over a period of 25 years. A total of 15,495 of the planes were made. Though most famous as a trainer, the T-6 Texan also won honors in World War II and in the early days of the Korean War.

The Texan was an evolution of the company's BC-1 basic combat trainer, which was first produced for the U.S. Army Air Corps with fixed landing gear in 1937 under a contract that called for 174 planes. North American Aviation designed the NA-49 prototype as a low-cost trainer with all the characteristics of a high-speed fighter.

Although not as fast as a fighter, it was easy to maintain and repair, had more maneuverability and was easier to handle. A pilot's airplane, it could roll, Immelmann, loop, spin, snap and vertical roll. It was designed to give the best possible training in all types of tactics, from ground strafing to bombardment and aerial dogfighting. It contained such versatile equipment as bomb racks, blind flying instrumentation, gun and standard cameras, fixed and flexible guns, and just about every other device that military pilots had to operate. 

Aircraft info courtesy of the Boeing Corporation and



Sooner Sports Properties, LLC, is the multimedia rights holder for athletics at the University of Oklahoma.
Sooner Sports Properties is a joint venture of Learfield Communications and Tyler Media, LLC.


Sooner Sports Powered by FOX Sports is a multi-platform network that provides distribution of 1,000+ hours of Sooner sports programming annually on a variety of FOX Sports outlets, including FOX Sports Oklahoma, FOX Sports Southwest, and FOX College Sports.