Ron Butler became a navigator through the Aviation Cadet program and one
month short of earning the star on his wings, he was accepted to pilot
training. He spent 4 years as a T-38 IP, 1 year in an RF-4 in SEA, 3 years
at Shaw, then he spent 3 years in NATO plans, and finally was assigned to
Bergstrom in the RF-4C.
For his flight on July 17, 1981, he did the standard bird strike brief. Mike Mechsner, an IP was the pitter. On the low level, Ron briefly saw the hawk with the wings in full reverse thrust and can still remember the individual feathers at the wing tips. The bird penetrated the side window panel, tore off his mask, and almost tore off his arm. Ron grabbed the flapping arm back into the cockpit. Blood and guts also got in the rear cockpit. Another RF-4 was in the area and flew chase. Ron couldn't talk but when Mike said "lower the gear", Ron responded. The gear came down, but the gear doors quickly departed. (If the rear-seater blows the gear down, you lose hydraulics for the nose gear)
The first responders were very concerned about extracting the pilot without starting the ejection sequence. Debris could cause this when the canopy was raised. All went well, and 30 minutes after the bird strike, Ron was able to climb down the ladder.
At the hospital, he was attended by a nurse he had dated, then his wife from whom he was separated from showed up in the ER. Also, an old flame from high school was in town and paid a courtesy visit. Just for grins, Ron would pull the sheet over his head. The response was "That's not funny." The women who were cleaning the AC came by to see if he was okay. They weren't sure if the remains were his or the birds. The side panels on an F-4 are made of plastic, and a piece cut Ron's arm within a quarter of an inch of the artery. It took three surgeries to clean the wound, but the worst part was it was the time of Princess Di's wedding, and that was all that was on TV for his 31-day hospital stay. His main concern was that he wouldn't be able to play golf. Now he has full movement except he has no strength in the fingers at full overhead extension.
Mike Mechsner spent 21 years in Reconnaissance. He was looking down when the bird hit, but remembers the map going by. After impact, he saw the eject light from the from seat. He thought this clod was about to eject us at 400 kts. He screaming "No! No! No!" He immediately pitched up to slow down and get his mask back on, and requested a chase. The F-4 had no problem doing 400 kts with the gear down. They had to cut both canopies apart to get everyone out. With all the blood and guts in the aircraft, everyone was amazed that Ron didn't bleed to death. Mike was covered in blood and guts. After changing his flight suit, the squadron opened the O'Club at 10 am. They were aircrew of the month for bringing back the plane. Tail "452" is now on static display at Eglin AFB.