If These Wings Could Talk...

A Fort Wayne pilot owns a one-of-a-kind plane that has quite a story.
Jennifer Blomquist
Jeffrey Crane

If Dean “Cutter” Cutshall’s F-100F Super Sabre could talk, it would tell you how it went from being a United States Air Force test aircraft to a sand-filled fighter in the Turkish Air Force to resting comfortably in a Fort Wayne hangar.

“I started flying early in high school,” says Cutshall. “I would ride my bike to the airport when it was called Baer Field to attend Van Stiffler’s ground school and then take flight training from Margaret Ringenberg. The summer after receiving my diploma from Hillsdale College, I joined the Navy. After the service, I moved to Michigan as a flight and ground instructor and an aircraft salesman. Returning to Fort Wayne, I flew for a charter operation until it eventually folded. After that, I got into the banking business, but continued to fly.”

As an aviation enthusiast, Cutshall surrounded himself with a circle of friends who shared his interest. One of them was John Dilley, who owned Fort Wayne Air Service.

“One day John called me and said, ‘Hey, Dean-O, there’s an F-100 for sale… are you interested?’ The plane was in Mojave, California, and was being sold by a company called Tracor Systems. They owned numerous military aircraft, everything from F-4s to F-100s. They had a contract with the U.S. government to do various tests with the F-100, but the contract fell through, so Tracor put it up for sale.”

Cutshall and Dilley, along with two other friends, Paul Swick and Jim “Prez” Prezbindowski, went to California to check out the aircraft.

“It was a mess,” recalls Swick. “It was in the Turkish Air Force olive drab colors and the paint was peeling. It was nasty-looking.”

Cutshall put in a bid, but was unsuccessful. 

“Two years later, we got a call from a doctor in Dallas who had purchased the aircraft and wanted to know if we were still interested. So, the four of us went to Dallas to take a look. I made the same offer I had made in California, but the doctor turned it down. Nine months later, he called again and said, ‘I really want to sell this airplane.’ We flew to Dallas again and I made the same offer of $250,000 that was originally made, but this time indicated he had to throw in a pristine-looking T-33, an Air Force jet trainer, which was sitting next to the F-100. He accepted and I flew the F-100 and hired another pilot to fly the T-33 to Fort Wayne.”

The doctor had the aircraft repainted, so it looked better, but still needed over $600,000 worth of work. Cutshall’s friends, Swick and Prez, who are the crew chiefs, and some of their friends from the Fort Wayne Air Guard Base, spent nearly two years rebuilding it.

“The only thing we didn’t do was take off the wings,” laughs Swick. “We replaced the engine a Pratt & Whitney J57 all hydraulic lines, some of them 30 years past due for replacement, rebuilt the nose gear and realigned the slats to name a few of the major items. It’s in better shape today than it was when it was in the service.”

The aircraft was manufactured in 1958 at the North American Palmdale California Plant and delivered to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico by Lt. Harry Eckes. 

“This particular plane never saw combat while it was in the United States,” says Cutshall. “The Air Force used it as a test platform for new weapons systems. There were approximately 2,300 F-100s manufactured, of which 340 were F-100F models. Of all the F-100s mufactured, this is the only operational F-100 in existence. Many were used in Vietnam. Others are on display or have been destroyed during missile tests. Some were moved to the military boneyard, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, and some were scrapped.

Cutshall says after Holloman, the plane was put into storage in Tucson. Eventually, it was rehabbed and sold to the Turkish Air Force where it was used in combat during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. It remained in Turkey for more than a decade before being purchased by Tracor and flown to California where it was put up for sale.

“During the renovation, we emptied hundreds of pounds of sand out of the HUN – the nickname for the F-100,” says Prez. “I mean, it was sitting in a desert in Turkey for ten years. When Paul removed the ejection seats it was just a sandbox.”

That was more than 20 years ago. Today, Cutshall’s F-100F Super Sabre is kept in the Premier Avionics hangar at Fort Wayne International Airport. It is meticulously maintained by Swick and Prez.

“I couldn’t ask for better crew chiefs,” says Cutshall. “Paul has nearly 60 years of experience on the F-100 and he’s done more work on that type of aircraft than any living person. Prez has 45 years of experience with the F-100 and is an expert on the J-57 engine and a master when it comes to sheet metal work. We take it to airshows throughout the year and various events like that. This year, my old friend Harry Eckes, the lieutenant who delivered the aircraft to the Air Force, will come from his home in Texas for one more flight in the HUN on his 85th birthday. Last year members of the Super Sabre Society, a group of men who flew the F-100 in Vietnam, came to Fort Wayne for a last ride in the beloved HUN. It was a great thrill for those guys and they laughed and all said the same thing after the ride…’The seat is still uncomfortable.’”

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