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F-15C Eagle display at Arnold AFB honors Duricy

The significance of the static aircraft displayed outside the Main Gate and Gate 2 of Arnold Air Force Base goes beyond decorative purposes.

The displays symbolize the importance of the work performed across Arnold Engineering Development Complex, headquartered at Arnold AFB. Testing conducted within AEDC facilities played a role in either the development or advancement of each type of aircraft exhibited.

But there is an additional meaning behind the displays. Each serves to honor the memory of those who sacrificed. They are dedicated to members of the U.S. military who gave their lives in service to the country.

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The displays are publicly accessible, and it’s not uncommon to see members of the community or other visitors stop for an up-close look at the aircraft. Many have likely taken the time to read the commemorative plaques installed in front of each to learn about those the displays honor.  However, others who catch a glimpse of the planes while passing by Arnold on Wattendorf Memorial Highway may be unaware of what the displays represent.

This is the fifth in a series of six stories focused on those to whom the displays are dedicated. Information on work performed at Arnold to field the safest and most effective version of each aircraft displayed will also be provided.

This feature focuses on the F-15C Eagle displayed at the Main Gate, dedicated in memory of Maj. Jim Duricy during an Aug. 9, 2007, ceremony.

Duricy died April 30, 2002, when he was forced to eject at a high speed as the F-15C he piloted crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. His body was never found.

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A 12-year test pilot, Duricy was assigned to the 40th Flight Test Squadron based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, at the time of his death. He was on a captive flight development test of a new missile when the aircraft crashed.

According to an obituary published May 24, 2002, in The News-Herald, a newspaper based in Willoughby, Ohio, Duricy was born in 1967 in Euclid, Ohio. He graduated as valedictorian of Euclid High School in 1985, where he also lettered in three sports. He entered the Air Force in 1989 after being commissioned from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Duricy earned his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1991. The following year, he graduated from pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona.

Serving as a pilot, instructor, flight commander and experimental test pilot, Duricy served at Air Force bases in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Alaska and California, according to The News-Herald obituary. He eventually returned to Florida, taking up residence in the Niceville area around a year-and-a-half before to his death.

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“The father is the hero, or he hopes to be. Jim was my hero,” Art Duricy, Maj. Duricy’s father, said during the August 2007 dedication ceremony at Arnold. “We are very proud of him. He never ceased to amaze me.”

Maj. Duricy’s mother Irene also spoke during the ceremony. She said although her son’s life was cut short, he led a full and rewarding life. She also commented that her son showed a love of flying at an early age.

“When he was about 14, he came home one day and said he wanted to fly jet planes,” she said. “Like every other mom, I said, ‘What in the world do you want to do that for?’

“He loved all of his jobs in the Air Force, from his first job as an instructor pilot to his last job in the test wing. But, above all, he just loved to fly.”

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Brig. Gen. C.D. Moore II, then-commander of the 478th Aeronautical Systems Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was the guest speaker for the dedication ceremony. At the time of Duricy’s death, Moore served as commander of the 46th Operations Group at Eglin AFB.

“I really am humbled and grateful to be here today as we honor a fighter pilot, a test pilot, loving husband, father, devoted son and truly an outstanding American – Maj. Jim Duricy,” Moore said. “It’s an honor to be here, not only to help dedicate this 46th Test Wing aircraft, but in recognition of the sacrifice Jim and his family have made for our nation.”

The F-15 dedicated in Duricy’s honor has been on display at Arnold since 2003. It was assigned to the 46th Test Wing, the same wing Duricy flew with at the time of his death. The 46th was part of the now-inactive Air Force Air Armament Center at Eglin AFB.

During his speech, Moore touched upon some of Duricy’s accomplishments.

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“From the moment I met Jim, there was no doubt that you were in the presence of a really remarkable test pilot and individual,” Moore said. “He was the kind of person you would expect to rise to that level – a valedictorian in high school and star athlete who went off to the Air Force Academy and graduated with honors. Just a handful of the graduates are sent to graduate school – only the smartest. Jim went on to George Washington University, not an easy school.”

Moore also expressed his appreciation for those who work at AEDC.

“I also want to thank all of you at Arnold for your role in preserving our freedom and national security,” he said during the 2007 ceremony. “Five years ago, I was the commander of the 46th Operations Group. That’s where I first met Jim. We worked together to test and integrate the new weapon onto our fight force – F-15s, F-16s, A-10s – and Jim was one of our premier F-15 test pilots.”

AEDC support of the F-15 program began before the first Eagle ever took to the skies and remained extensive throughout the ensuing decades.

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Design work on the F-15, deployed in July 1972, began in the late 1960s. Efforts at Arnold involving the F-15 started prior to the selection of the final design when scale models of various configurations of the F-15 were tested in Arnold wind tunnels. This was done to help determine optimal aircraft design, and data obtained helped engineers make design alterations and refinements to ensure peak aircraft performance. When the F-15 was unveiled in 1972, it featured several of the changes that had been validated during testing at Arnold.

In the late 1960s, two companies were competing for an Air Force contract to build the engine for the F-15. Using engine test facilities at Arnold, the Air Force was able to evaluate the systems side-by-side in identical conditions. The contract was awarded to Pratt & Whitney in 1970.

Near the beginning of the 1970s, the Pratt & Whitney F100 engine, the power plant of the F-15, underwent evaluation at Arnold. Wind tunnel tests demonstrated the compatibility of the engine with the F-15 inlet prior to the first flight of the aircraft.

In 1972, an F100 engine attached to a multi-ton inlet simulator was installed in an Arnold jet engine test cell. The latter simulated the aircraft’s variable air inlet and the ducting that separates the inlet from the engine The purpose of these tests was to eliminate inlet compatibility issues before the aircraft was flown. During testing, speed, altitude and attitude were varied to match conditions the engine was expected to encounter in flight to ensure the quality of air reaching the face of the engine would not cause it to stall.

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By the following year, testing in Arnold turbine engine test facilities had figured in all phases of the F100 development cycle. More than 23,000 hours of engine tests followed these early efforts on all variant upgrades to the F100 engine, including tests conducted throughout the 1980s into the 2010s.

Several years after the initial engine tests, advanced techniques were employed in an Arnold wind tunnel to determine whether the F-15 could jettison a store during high-speed flight. The store model was successfully dropped from the parent aircraft. Along with the free-drop technique, the computer-controlled support system of the wind tunnel was used to measure forces on the store model to ensure it would respond to these forces the same way an actual sized store would when released.

In 1974, the same year as this store test, miniature stores of various missiles and bombs were assessed at various speeds in an Arnold wind tunnel. These tests were conducted using a 1/20th scale model of the F-15, as the stores tested represented potential payloads for the aircraft. This work was performed to determine the effects of external payloads on the flow field characteristics beneath the armament stations of the F-15 and was done in preparation for weapons separation flight tests scheduled at another Air Force installation.

Munitions testing would continue to comprise a large portion of work involving the F-15 in Arnold wind tunnels.

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Additional store separation and aerodynamic testing involving the F-15E Strike Eagle, a variant of the F-15 introduced in the latter part of the 1980s, followed during the 1990s and into the 2010s.

In July 2021, Jet 025, an F-15C Eagle, completed its final flight at Eglin AFB. The retirement flight also recognized Duricy as it was Jet 025 that replaced Jet 022, the F-15 lost during the mishap resulted in Duricy’s death. Following its final flight, Jet 025 was hosed down by the Eglin fire department, memorializing both the touchdown of the aircraft and Duricy’s last flight.

During the August 2007 ceremony at Arnold, then-AEDC Commander Col. Art Huber said that in the 1990s, he also flew the F-15 and was involved as a flight test engineer in the initial planning for the missile test program for which Duricy was performing a mission when he lost his life. Huber added he performed this work with the 46th Test Wing, the same unit that oversaw the last mission Duricy flew.

“While I never met Jim, I did meet his widow when she graciously and courageously shared her experiences at my group commander’s course at Maxwell Air Force Base,” Huber said. “From my perspective, Maj. Duricy was clearly the right choice for this memorial.”

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The next article in the series will feature the F/A-18 Hornet dedicated to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Frank Wittwer.

The static F-15 Eagle on display outside the Main Gate and Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., is dedicated to Maj. Jim Duricy. He died April 30, 2002, when he was forced to eject at a high speed as the F-15C he piloted crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. His body was never found. A 12-year test pilot, Duricy was assigned to the 40th Flight Test Squadron based at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., at the time of his death. He was on a captive flight development test of a new missile when the aircraft crashed. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Brooke Brumley)

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