$3,500 - $4,000
Traveling From Dallas, TX
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.
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.
Professional Military Education:
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.