Donald L. Underwood

Don Underwood (LTC ret.) was graduated with Flight Class 68-1 and flew in Vietnam with the 283rd Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) under the Call Sign DUSTOFF 61 in 1968-69 as a Warrant Officer. On one fateful day, while attempting to evacuate wounded soldiers from a mountain top fire base, his ship was hit by enemy fire resulting in a loss of aircraft control and a subsequent crash. He and the Aircraft Commander, CPT Conners, the unit commander, were both severely injured. He was evacuated to the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku and eventually to Japan where he quickly recovered and was back with the 283rd in only a month. He completed his year-long combat tour in spite of his injuries. Later he accepted a commission in the Air Defense Artillery branch.

The project for which Don is most famous was a flight test of the Williams Aerial Surveillance Platform (WASP). The vehicle was essentially a cruise missile engine mounted vertically and stabilized only by the pilot shifting his weight. He was one of only two uniformed service members to achieve sufficient proficiency to operate the WASP in free flight.

He accrued over 3700 flight hours in 35 models of 24 different types of aircraft. Don retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1989.

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