Air Force

February 7, 2014

This week in history

Luke logs 1 million flying hours

FROM LEFT: Col. John Nissley, then commander at Luke Field, shakes hands with Lt. Col. Lester Harris, director of training at Luke, Feb. 7, 1944, as Maj. Hugh Griffith Jr., base operations officer, and Capt. William Payton, assistant operations officer, look on. Since Feb. 7, 1944, the Luke pilots have flown untold millions of hours. In fact, 11 months ago, Luke AFB flew its millionth U.S. Air Force F-16 flying hour. It took 30 years, three-and -a-half months to accomplish that task.

Feb. 7, 1944:
Seventy years ago today Luke Field’s commander, Col. John Nissley, logged the first millionth hour flown here. He flew the base’s primary aircraft, a North American AT-6 Texan. The base had approximately 500 AT-6s. What makes the feat so incredible was that flight operations did not really begin at Luke until July 15, 1941. One week short of nineteen months later, Nissley flew that millionth hour.

Nissley was the fourth and sixth “Luke 1.” During World War I, he joined the Army. On Sept. 22, 1917, he graduated from Army aviation ground-school at the University of Texas. Between January and June 1918, he took primary aviation training at Foggia, Italy. His commander was Capt. Fiorello LaGuardia. LaGuardia later became the long-time mayor of New York City. Unfortunately, Foggia’s aircraft were so different from those used on the Western Front, few graduates saw action.

Nissley commanded the 513th Observation Squadron in October 1922 in Los Angeles, which moved to Stockton, Calif., Jan. 30, 1923. In 1925, he was stationed at Mitchel Field, Long Island, N.Y., and on July 25, he survived a crash of his Martin NBS-1 at Camp Vail, N.J. His last known pre-World War II service was between May 24 and Aug. 25, 1931. During that time, he commanded the 76th Service Squadron in the 20th Pursuit Group at Rockwell Field, Calif.

From April 15, 1942, to March 1943, Nissley commanded the Chico Army Flying School at Chico Army Air Field, Calif.

He took command of Luke Field on March 19, 1943, and left July 28, 1944, to become the post commander for the Overseas Replacement Depot in Greensboro, N.C. He returned to Luke Oct. 5, 1944, and departed for the last time Jan. 9, 1945. Between March and July 1945, he served as commander of Langley Field, Va. He then commanded the Big Spring Bombardier School in Big Spring, Texas.




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