Personal History

submitted by: Col.Alva Matheson

Good Morning 8 August 2022

Reflections on Uvalde

Tragic events at Uvalde, Texas, remind me of an earlier time of chaos in that small city. But then it was wild celebration and liquid joy that threatened to consume the town. Maybe today would be a good time to tell the “true” story behind of an epic event. The year was 1966 and one of us was a green lieutenant at his first Air Force duty station.
I had just moved my small family of three small girls with orders to attend Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, Texas and join the “WOULD YOU BELIEVE” Class of 67H. It was in the fall of the year and I had rented a luxury (?) residence at 313 Marshal Smith Drive in the “Queen City Of The Rio Grande. Our class was one of the first pilot training classes to fly the T-38 Talon as an advanced trainer and as such our class included a number of foreign nationals looking to fly the supersonic aircraft
One of the major participant nations was Iran, courtesy of the US Government and good relations with the Shaw of Iran. Yes, times have changed since then. It was suggested that the Shaw of Iran had a rather large Harem and more than fifty male Princes in the family, one of whom was to become a close friend. His name was Monseur Nassari.
I never knew where Monseur stood in the line-up and never asked. He was a capable student with a quick smile and a warm and generous heart. He had difficulty with the English language and struggled at times with the technology but he was disciplined and dedicated and earned the respect of his fellow students and instructors. It was evident that he couldn’t fail the pilot training class, because of the evident political connections, and there was seldom a week at our instruction table that there was not a call asking how he was doing and if all was going well.
We had progressed from basic flight training in the Cessna T-41 to more advanced training in the T-37 “Tweet,” a low wing two-place twin engine jet aircraft that was fast, maneuverable, and fun to fly. Mid-course and prior to instrument training we had each of us had soloed in the airplane and were given a set number of hours of solo time for proficiency and confidence building. Our call signs were by squadron identifier (PRESS ON) and student number. Our flight profile was to fly outward from Laughlin AFB on a VOR (Very High Frequency Omni Range Beacon) radial for a set distance, then veer to the left or right for a dedicated sector to practice aerobatic/proficiency exercises at our discretion, with the time on station limited only by our fuel.
On the fateful day Monseur and I signed out of the squadron just after lunch. We walked to the personal equipment stores together and there we collected our parachutes and flight gear before sauntering to our airplanes on the tarmac. Time was not really a factor, though we did have an expected time of takeoff. We chatted about things in general and it became evident that Monseur was apprehensive about his first practice flight, and flight procedures in general. We shared our assignment…, to fly a given radial (330 for a given distance), then Monseur would turn right into his sector; I would fly an adjacent radial and turn left into my assigned sector and then fly some distance beyond his sector as a safety precaution. We had both been cleared for aerobatic maneuvers between 10,000 ft and 30,000 ft by area surveillance radar, and our sectors were protected from other aircraft by a NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) publication.

I noticed Monseur was waiting for me to close my canopy first, as a courtesy to indicate I should taxi from the ramp first. I did so, and he followed suit to the hammerhead for an engine run-up area before calling for clearance to take off. He was only about five minutes behind me when I heard the tower clear PRESS-ON 12 for take-off behind me. I thought nothing of the incident or his being behind me, I was thinking only of the responsibilities ahead of me. I hit the radial, exactly, flew to my sector and let out a big gasp of freedom. By the way, there is nothing like the awareness that you have a fully capable airplane under you, nothing but blue sky above you, and you are accountable only to God. The newness of being alone in the sky was somewhat whelming? I am sure it was to Monseur as well.
I started my flight profile timidly but as my confidence began to build I became more adventurous and eventually started to press the envelope of flight. My favorite maneuver had always been the cloverleaf. Start high, about 30,000 ft, dive steeply to a limiting airspeed before pulling up in a half loop while rolling 90 degrees to the left or right, just in time to pull the aircraft through 90 degrees and begin another steep descent. That was repeated the maneuver four times to complete the maneuver back on the original course and original heading. Great fun? NOT! I realized after the second maneuver that I was rapidly becoming air sick… Not good.
About that time I heard Monseur call me on Multi-com (122.9), as we had agreed, to chat in flight, though it was not officially legal for either of us to be off our primary frequency.
“PRESS ON 15, PRESS ON 15, this is PRESS ON 12”
“Go ahead press on 12, this is PRESS ON15…”
“Hey Al, what you do?”
“Fly airplane good, Monseur, how about you?”
“What I do, Al?”
“I like loop, Monseur, maybe lazy 8” and Cuban 8’s and Cloverleaf?? I like Cloverleaf.
“How I do Cloverleaf?”
I explained the set up and process to remind him, but I was near my departure time and soon checked out of my sector without hearing from Monseur again. I coasted in to the base and enjoyed the ride, called for an overhead arrival with a full stop landing and proceeded to follow my marshalers to an open ramp adjacent to where Monsuer would park. I filled out the Form 781 and flight cards, and chatted with the crew chief, expecting Monseur at any time, but it was close to 95 degrees in the desert heat and eventually the sweat took precedence and I strolled over to PE to return my flight helmet and gear.
Still No Monseur.
When I got back to the training squadron I received the expected inquiries from my instructor: “How did it go?” “What did you do?” “Any problems or questions?” “Where is Monseur?” I told him the string of events, when I had last I had spoken with him, and that I hadn’t heard or seen him since. “Oh…, how much fuel did you have? How much was left when you landed?” I answered all of his questions as he picked up a telephone from the desk and called flight operations. PRESS ON 15 landed 10 minutes ago. No report of PRESS ON 12. Squadron Commander entered in the conversation, same questions, same answers, then he called both operations and the control tower. No Monseur!
Things are really heating up now, palpable fear and silence in the room. Everyone knew that PRESS ON 12 was beyond fuel starvation, and the airplane could not possibly still be in the air. Our Wing Commander then checked in, “where is Monseur? “What Sector. “What distance, wants to talk to Monseur’s wingman, ME! Same answers. Now it is rescue operations. Same answers! There is nothing like the thunder of silence when someone is missing in flight. Monseur, Where are you????
By this time things quieted down (five hours later) and I had been completely forgotten. I was still sitting pensively at my desk watching show, speculation was running rampant around the room and throughout the environs of the command staff…, when the telephone at our training desk started to ring? No one but me noticed. I picked up the intrusive noise maker and introduced myself only to hear…
“Hey! Al…, What you do?”
“Monseur… Where are you???” (…with the mouth piece covered in my hand.)
“I party, good time, you come!”
“Monseur…Where are you???,” again (…with my hand still covering the mouth piece.
“Big Party, You Come, good time all. You come!”
“Monseur…Where are you???, “ again
“I Uvalde, big party, you come!!!

“EXCUSE ME SIR! Call for You”
The commander casually walked over, frowning at my low-life interruption into his high life dilemma.
“What is it Lieutenant, can’t you see I am busy, and tell them to call back later!”
“Excuse me sir, I think you will want to take this call.”
Utter pandemonium sets in.
Now people are running around in circles, “find me a truck, where in the heck is Uvalde?, how far is it?, is he hurt? Call the State Department! “Who is going after him? Where is his instructor? Where is the airplane? How bad is the damage? Call the Sherriff! Get the Air Police over there, right NOW! And so it goes.
Eventually the base sent a lowboy truck and mechanics to Uvalde to disassemble the T-37 airplane…
Where is Monseur? Monseur is in the bar drunk as a skunk. The town’s people, all of them, are gathered around him in a celebration the likes of which they had never been seen. They even put flowers in his airplane, in the middle of the road, and Monseur is grinning from ear to ear. Everyone from the base was so relieved they could think of nothing better than to even yell at him. He had gotten lost and managed to find the only straight road in a hundred miles; before his fuel ran out; made a perfect landing and taxied into the center of Uvalde to become the star attraction of a growing crowd of astonished citizens who had just discovered a great reason to celebrate, and Monseur was it.
Welcome Home, Monseur!

Weeks later when the two of us had some time at the student desk I cornered Monseur and in quiet tone asked what really had happened? After swearing me to confidence, he said that when we last spoken in flight he took on the cloverleaf maneuver, and when he completed the maneuver he was (as I was) so air-sick he couldn’t do anything but fly straight and level. He paid no attention to anything remotely like a compass. When he finally settled down, he flew the “airplane” in expanding circles all the while looking for the TO/FROM indicator on the VOR navigation system to show him how to go “TO” Laughlin Air Force Base. It wouldn’t show anything but “FROM!” So, Monsuer assumed the radio was not working and started looking for any alternative to landing in the desert.
Note: Turning the airplane in circles without changing the bearing needle, only meant the bearing displayed, IF SELECTED, would take him away from the station. To get home he needed to fly level and turn the BEARING needle until the “TO” appeared, giving him a bearing that if flown would take him toward the base.
Knowing he was nearly out of fuel, Monseur could see only one road, and the only straight segment of the road ended at the main street of Uvalde. So after he put the flaps down and made a GREAT landing, and then he simply taxied toward the town until he ran out of fuel at the center intersection. The surprised townspeople hauled him out of the cockpit and it was determined to be instant PARTY TIME!
Welcome Home Monseuer.
I have tried to contact Monseur over the years. The only information I would find was speculation that he had been eliminated in the demise of the SHAW and rise of Iyatollah Komeni in subsequent 1979.

Col Alva L. Matheson/NAIL 213UPT
Class 67H Del Rio, Texas
Military Relations Representative
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints