53 years ago this week, South Dakotans were all ears over the arrival of the Air National Guard's new fleet of F-102 fighter jets. The plane's ability to fly faster than the speed of sound took some getting used to by people on the ground, creating a network of "boom towns" from Pierre all the way to Jackson, Minnesota.
The F-102 Delta Dagger was the first supersonic plane assigned to the South Dakota Air Guard Base. KELOLAND's own Captain 11 was part of the welcoming committee.
An F-102 Delta Dagger, on display at the South Dakota Air National Guard, whisks memories back more than half-a-century ago, at super-sonic speed.
"The concept of super-sonic flight was, of course, new and innovative at the time, it drew a lot of attention," 114th Fighter Wing Support Officer Lt. Col. Reid Christopherson said.
The air guard introduced the F-102's to the public during an open house on January 28, 1961, emceed by KELO-TV'S Captain 11. The event included demonstration flights so communities unfamiliar with the high-speed capabilities of the F-102 could hear just what a sonic boom sounded like. Those communities were called "boom towns."
"There were certainly different reactions from people. We hear stories even to this day, someone remembering as a child, especially those that might have been in farm environments, the impact on livestock and those aren't factors that have disappeared. It's something we take very seriously," Christopherson said.
The air guard's commander at the time told South Dakotans that the sonic booms created by the new aircraft are not to be feared, but rather embraced as a sign of 'supersonic security.'
"That preparedness was critical and so the sound of the super-sonic flight was very much viewed as the sound of security, the sound of freedom," Christopherson said.
The F-102's were phased-out in 1970. But one of the planes returned 15 years later to go on display at the base, hitching a ride on a helicopter from Arizona. A retired Cold Warrior paved a supersonic pathway for future generations of aircraft that soar across the South Dakota skies.
F-102 crews were trained to be airborne within five minute of going on alert. Their mission was to intercept any planes from the Soviet Union that might try to launch an attack on the United States.