Phil Handley

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Books by Phil Handley

  • Former Commanding Officer of the world's largest F-15 Wing
  • World recorder holder of highest speed & only supersonic air-to-air gun kill in aviation history

Colonel Phil “Hands” Handley earned his commission and wings through the Aviation Cadet program in 1959. He was a distinguished graduate from pilot training, fighter upgrade training and instructor pilots’ school. He "flew the line" for all but eleven months of a twenty-six year career, accumulating over 7,000 flight hours. While flying 275 combat missions during two tours in Southeast Asia, he was awarded 21 Air Medals, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Silver Star.


Media files by Phil Handley

  • Gathering of Eagles Induction

  • Nickel On The Grass: What it's like to fly the great F-4 Phantom in combat? Or to rotate a C-130A Hercules to a vertical climb from takeoff? Or to dodge dozens of SAMs and thousands of rounds of AAA? Or what it's like to fly in a missing-man formation over the Super Bowl? Or how to consistently win an old-fashioned dog fight? Or just how good the F-15 Eagle really was, and still is? The answer to these and other questions are reflected in the personal observations of the twenty-six year career path of an Air Force pilot. The stories, based on Phil's book, is the gamut from aerial combat, to human interest experiences as seen through the speaker's eyes.
  • Inspirational
  • Keynote
  • Leadership
  • Military
  • Motivational

Colonel Phil “Hands” Handley was chosen as a member of the 2011 Class of Gathering of Eagles at Maxwell AFB, Alabama on 28 May 2011. The following citation accompanied his induction: SETTING:  On 2 June 1972, Major Phil “Hands” Handley made aerial combat history in an F-4E over North Vietnam by achieving the only supersonic gun kill in the history of aviation. After firing all of his AIM-7 and AIM-4 missiles which failed to guide, he destroyed a MiG-19 with a three second 20mm burst from his M-61 Gatling gun at a slant range of 300 feet, 500 feet above the ground, and a crossing angle of 90 degrees.  At the time of the kill, his aircraft was traveling at mach 1.2.  For this victory, Major Handley and his Weapon Systems Officer, 1/Lt Jack “Karst” Smallwood were awarded the Silver Star.

 Born on 9 April 1935 in Wellington, TX, he dreamed of becoming an Army Air Corp fighter pilot from the first moment he saw pictures of the great piston driven fighters of World War II. After graduating at the top of his pilot training class in 1959 and F-86 upgrade training in 1960, he was stunned to learn that his only assignment options were SAC B-47s or C-130s.  The allure of France persuaded him to choose a C-130A assignment at Evreux-Fauville Air Base, located some seventy miles west of Paris. After almost four years of vain attempts to return to tactical fighters, all hope faded when he was assigned as a flight examiner to the 317th Troop Carrier Wing at Lockbourne AFB, OH.  Fate finally smiled upon him when he was tapped as the C-130 demonstration pilot for the Lockbourne Armed Forces Day Air Show on 4 July 1965. His ensuing demonstration consisted of rotation to a vertical climb from takeoff and terminated with a landing roll of 200 feet, after which the wing commander deemed that his services were no longer needed, and he was reassigned to Williams AFB, AZ, where he conducted functional check flights in the T-37, T-38 and F-5.

Following checkout in the F-4C at Davis Monthan AFB in1969, he flew the F-4 for the next 8 years. Col Handley “flew the line” for all but three years of his twenty-six year career, including 275 combat missions during two tours in Southeast Asia. 

Command Assignments:


  •  Squadron Commander 22nd TFS, Bitburg Air Base, Germany
  •  Chief USAFE Stan Eval, Ramstein Air Base, Germany
  •  Deputy Commander for Operations, 1st TFW, Langley AFB, VA
  •  Wing Commander, 405th TTW, Luke AFB, AZ


Professional Military Education:


  •  Air Command and Staff School – Maxwell AFB, AL
  •  Industrial College of the Armed Forces - Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.
  •  US Army War College – Carlisle, PA




  •  Order of Daedalians
  •  Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association
  •  1st Fighter




  •  21 Air Medals
  •  3 Distinguished Flying Cross
  •  Silver Star


In 2006 the book, Nickel on the Grass, chronicling his 26-year career as a pilot in the United States Air Force was published.  Col Handley and Solvejg, his wife of 53 year are retired and make their home at Lake Kiowa, Texas.

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Phil Handley Dallas TX, Texas Military Speaker, Texas Author, Texas Adventure Speaker