The first of the “Century Series” fighters, the career of the North American F-100 Super Sabre can by summarized by a series of superlatives: the fastest, the highest flying and longest endurance aircraft of its era. Although it was rapidly overtaken by other aircraft designed specifically as ‘pure’ fighters, the “Hun” (as it was called by pilots) found its best niche as fighter bomber extensively utilized in Vietnam and ending its honorable career during the 1980s in the hands of Allied air forces. On Thursday, November 12th, our own James Church had the opportunity to witness Dean “Cutter” Cutshall’s last flight of the year with his North American F-100F Super Sabre, N2011V. This is his report.
By James Church, Warbird Digest Research Editor
Dean “Cutter” Cutshall performed the last flight of the year with his North American F-100F Super Sabre, N2011V, on November 12th. This was not a normal flight by any means, as it was set to take place at dusk! Upon hearing this news, and knowing the opportunity may never present itself again, I made my way to the Fort Wayne airport (FWA) to witness the event. Cutshall and the F-100 are always a welcome sight in the skies over Indiana every time he takes his rare Cold War-era fighter aloft, but this was going to be special! Those gathered to witness the event on that cold, brisk November evening anticipated quite a show, and in the end, none were disappointed. Cutshall fired up the Hun just as the sun was setting, the polished aluminum of that gorgeous machine reflecting the very last glimmers of sunlight as the preflight checks were performed on the ramp. The low hum from the Pratt & Whitney J57 turbojet was the only sound to be heard, as the crowd had grown silent in anticipation of the spectacle that lie ahead.
On getting the “thumbs up” from crew chief Paul Swick, and having received clearance from the tower, Cutshall slowly advanced the throttle and began his taxi to the runway. It had gotten completely dark by the time he reached the departure end of the runway, making it hard to see the aircraft as Cutshall performed his final pre-flight checks. The distinctive “thump” of the Hun’s afterburner kicking in alerted all that he was on his takeoff roll, and with about thirty feet of flame emitting from the tail, he was quickly airborne in the cool evening air. Departing the area for about twenty minutes, his return was marked by the first of several overhead passes made in full afterburner, eliciting cheers from those watching with each fly past made. All too soon it was over, and the F-100 taxied back to parking. Avionics technician Gordon Long was fortunate to be riding along in the back seat, and any signs of apprehension he may have unwittingly displayed prior to the flight were now gone-replaced by a grin running ear to ear.
Soon after, with the metal “tinking” as it cooled, the Hun was put back in the hangar, camera gear was put back in the bag, and the crowd dispersed. It was over all too soon, but everyone present knew they had witnessed a rare event, and were fortunate in doing so. On the drive home all I could think was how lucky I have been to witness Cutshall and his F-100 on multiple occasions over the years, culminating in this very special night flight. I couldn’t help but think of the need to savor each and every such experience, because just like everything else in life, nothing lasts forever.
We owe a debt of gratitude to owners and operators of these vintage aircraft, as the demands of time and money required to keep something like a Century Series fighter jet are astronomical. I only hope we can continue to enjoy seeing these wonderful machines grace the skies in the future.
Dean “Cutter” Cutshall’s North American F-100F Super Sabre (N2011V) is featured inside issue #41 of Warbird Digest> Click the image below to purchase this issue.