Bob Pardo, a fighter pilot who during the Vietnam War kept a wingman’s damaged plane aloft in a daring feat of aviation that became known as the Pardo Push, died on Dec. 5 in a hospital near his home in College Station, Texas. He was 89.
His wife, Kathryn Pardo, said the cause was lung cancer.
In March 1967, Captain Pardo was on a mission over North Vietnam in an F-4 Phantom when antiaircraft fire hit his plane, inflicting damage, while more badly ripping into the fuel tank of another fighter in the strike force. Both jets pulled away to head home. But the second plane had lost too much fuel to make it to safety. Captain Pardo realized that its two-man crew would be forced to eject over enemy territory and face capture or worse.
Flying beneath the compromised plane, Captain Pardo told its pilot, Capt. Earl Aman, to lower his tailhook — a metal pole at the rear of a fighter used to arrest its landing. At 300 miles per hour, Captain Pardo nudged his plane’s glass windshield against the tip of the pole. For almost 90 miles, he pushed the other plane as both jets hemorrhaged fuel, until they crossed the border with Laos. Both crews ejected by parachute and all four men were rescued.
When they returned to their airfield, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, Captain Pardo faced criticism for the highly unorthodox maneuver, which may have saved the lives of Captain Aman and his weapons officer, First Lt. Robert Houghton, but came at the cost of Captain Pardo’s aircraft.
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