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Billy Sparks - FU Hero

Posted by Jolly on June 11, 2013

BILLY "SPARKY" SPARKS - FU HERO

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Lt Col Billy “Sparky” Sparks is our latest FU HERO.  Sparky flew west on 10 May 2013.  He was a longtime resident of Las Vegas and Henderson.  He was born Dec. 7, 1934.  He attended Albany High School, IN, Class of 52.  Sparky graduated from Indiana University, Class of 1957, where he was commissioned through ROTC a second lieutenant in the USAF.  He graduated from Pilot Training Class 59D in 1958 and was assigned to fly the F-100 Super Sabre at Nellis AFB. 

Sparky’s first operational assignment was at Spangdalem AB, Germany from 1959-1963 where he transitioned from the F-100 to the F-105.  His first combat tour in Southeast Asia was at Takhli AB in 1965 where he flew 63 combat missions in the Thud.  He attended the F-105 Fighter Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis in 1966, and transitioned to the F-105F Wild Weasel in 1967.  Sparky next returned to Takhli and the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1967 as a Wild Weasel Instructor pilot flying 82 additional combat missions.  He had one less takeoff than landing in the Thud on 5 Nov 1967, but that missing landing was made up for with a single landing in the CH-53 Jolly Green.  Sparky’s rescue is the kind of story legends are made of, and he would often praise both the Sandy Pilots and the Jolly Green crews that saved his bacon on that day north of Hanoi.  Here’s a video of Sparky describing the rescue in detail:

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Lt Col Billy Sparks was a highly decorated Wild Weasel pilot during the Vietnam War.  Robin Olds called him the “bravest man he ever knew.”  During his time insparkyweasel2.jpeg SEA as a Wild Weasel pilot, he was awarded three Silver Stars, seven Distinguished Flying Crosses, and fifteen Air Medals. As an Air Force Fighter Pilot he compiled 2250 hours in the F-105 Thud, 750 in the F-100, 450 in the F-4, and 350 in the F-104.  That’s quite a career.  One well known missions Sparky flew was an attack he lead on a Bar Lock Radar Site, 1 October 1967.  You can see some the comments about Sparky's remarkable life on his obituary page.  Comments like:

  • Sparky was absolutely the bravest pilot I have ever known. In the most harrowing situation over or around Hanoi, he was cool and remarkably effective in his job as a Weasel leader. He was a friend, a source of many great times and a significant contributor to our Air Force anti-missile technology. We have lost a great pilot, combat leader and friend.  Tom Kirk Cmdr 357th TFS Tahkli
  • Sparky was a 50-year friend. I have flown his wing and he mine. We expanded the Wild Weasel playbook. After going West, I will be honored to fly your wing again Sparky.  You have earned peace and rest. Bless you and tailwinds.   Leo Thorsness
  • Sparky made me feel proud to be a THUD pilot.   Bob Spielman
  • Sparky taught me to go to war and live. "Shark, disregard the launch light, Barracuda take it down" still makes my hair stand up. My friend and mentor for 45 years. Give Carlo a hug for me my brother.   Neely Johnson 

Sparky was frequently called upon as guest speaker and lecturer for inspirational sparkyweasel.jpegand motivational talks. He recently published a collection of stories about his military career entitled, "Takhli Tales." Billy enjoyed skiing, traveling and cooking for family and friends. He is survived by his wife, Dell; son, Reid; daughter, Peggy; and three grandchildren. Memorial services will be noon-2 p.m. Friday, June 14, at the Nellis Air Force Base Chapel, 4302 N. Washington Blvd., Bldg. 617, Nellis AFB, NV 89191. Attendees without military ID will be required to make arrangements with the security office 72 hours in advance.

 The faculty at Fighter Pilot University is extremely proud to add Billy “Sparky” Sparks to our hall of HEROS.  Here’s a Nickel on the Grass for a great Fighter Pilot, Warrior, and American Patriot.  DB

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