Jerry Bradley, EAA 879528, who flew the EC-47 electronic warfare aircraft during the Vietnam War, will speak about his career and experiences in the cockpit on Thursday, May 19, at 7 p.m. as part of the EAA Aviation Museum Aviation Adventure Speaker Series.
Jerry’s interest in aviation came from his father, who was a ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, Jerry immediately went to U.S. Air Force pilot training and was eventually assigned to the EC-47 — an electronic warfare variant of the venerable C-47 Skytrain, which was most famous for transporting troops and cargo during WWII. While the C-47 was well past its prime by the late 1960s, the Air Force still had hundreds in its inventory and decided to make use of them in support of the war in Southeast Asia.
“[I flew the airplane] over Laos flying combat missions to geo-locate enemy radios on the ground and collect intelligence in support of operations against the Ho Chi Minh Trail,” Jerry explained. “We passed the intel forward and sometimes it would be given to artillery units and I found out later that specifically we fed intel for B-52 strikes against the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”
Although EC-47 airframes were about 25 years old when they re-entered service, they had new engines, a strengthened fuselage, the gross weight maximums were increased, and updated electronic equipment was installed to perform its signals intelligence mission.
Following his service in Southeast Asia, Jerry served stateside with the Air Force training command, flying the T-37, T-29 (military version of the Convair 440), and T-43 (military version of the Boeing 737-200), before being selected to serve with the presidential unit at Andrews Air Force Base and flying the Lockheed JetStar and Beechcraft King Air VIP transports. After a decade with the Air Force, Jerry was hired by Southwest Airlines, where he spent many years flying as a 737 captain, and is currently a flight crew training instructor with Southwest.
Thursday’s event is free for EAA members and youths 5 and under, and just $5 for nonmembers.