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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Coy, Jerry


Biographical Note

Jerry Coy is a Vietnam War veteran whose career in military and commercial aviation spans over 40 years. He was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee and attended Treadwell High School, where he was required to participate in two years of Army ROTC. In 1964, he began his undergraduate education at Memphis State University, with the intention of going on to medical school. He participated in the university’s mandatory Air Force ROTC program and earned his private pilot’s license while flying the Piper Tri-Pacer. After his brother advised him against pursuing medicine as a career, Coy decided to complete the ROTC program and become an Air Force officer.

After graduation, Coy reported to Laredo Air Force Base (Texas) for flight training and afterwards volunteered for a combat tour in Vietnam. He received survival training at Fairchild Air Force Base (Washington), then deployed to Southeast Asia for an assignment as a forward air controller. During his combat tour, he flew the Cessna O-2 Skymaster in support of the 5th Special Forces Group during their out-country infiltration missions. On one such mission, he helped rescue a Green Beret team that was under attack by the North Vietnamese Army. He received the Silver Star for his efforts at the recommendation of the U.S. Army.

After the completion of his year-long combat tour, Coy returned to the United States and served as a T-38 instructor at Craig Air Force Base (Alabama). He next served as a check airman before volunteering for another combat tour in Southeast Asia. He received training in the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II at Homestead Air Force Base (Florida), then deployed to Vietnam. During his second tour, he flew mostly night bombing missions on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. His final count for both tours in Vietnam was over 300 missions.

Coy next served as an intercept pilot in the Air Defense Identification Zone in Alaska. His objectives were to protect the ADIZ, respond to Soviet incursions, and intercept Soviet bombers. During this assignment, he had the opportunity to participate in air combat simulations with the Aggressor Squadron of the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing. Impressed by the experience, he transferred from Alaska back to Tactical Air Command in order to join the Aggressor Squadron himself. While with the Aggressors, he flew the Northrop F-5E and helped train pilots at the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base (Nevada) and elsewhere.

Coy’s next assignment was a 12-month remote tour in Saudi Arabia, stationed at Riyadh. He served as a liaison to a deployment of Aggressor pilots and participated in other staff work. He also served as a military consultant to the Royal Saudi Air Force during heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. At the completion of his remote tour, Coy joined the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Holloman Air Force Base (New Mexico). He served with the 9th and 8th Fighter Squadrons, flying the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle during air superiority missions. Coy then retired from the Air Force at the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Following his retirement from the military in the 1980s, Coy initially considered enrolling in law school but was convinced by a squadron mate to apply to several airlines. He was hired by Northwest Airlines and served as a second officer/flight engineer on a Boeing 727. Six years later, he was promoted to first officer and transitioned to the Boeing 747. During his commercial aviation career, he flew both domestic and international routes, with common destinations including Seattle, Alaska, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines. Coy retired from Northwest in 2008.

After retirement, Coy continued to pursue his athletic hobbies of distance running and bicycling. He also joined The Museum of Flight Docent Corps at the suggestion of a former Northwest Airlines colleague. He is still an active Museum volunteer as of 2017. Biographical information derived from interview and additional information provided by interviewee.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Part 1, 2017 June 08

Interview Summary In this two-part oral history, Vietnam War veteran Jerry Coy is interviewed about his 40-year career in military and commercial aviation. In part one, he discusses his service in the United States Air Force from the 1960s to the 1980s. He describes his experiences as a forward air controller and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II pilot during the Vietnam War and discusses his other assignments in the United States and abroad. Topics discussed include his personal background, his combat tours in...

Part 2, 2017 June 28

Interview Summary In this two-part oral history, Vietnam War veteran Jerry Coy is interviewed about his 40-year career in military and commercial aviation. In part two, he discusses his final assignments with the United States Air Force and his career as a commercial pilot for Northwest Airlines, circa late 1980s to 2008. He also touches on his post-retirement activities. Topics discussed include his service with the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, his experiences flying the Boeing 727 and 747, flight crew duties...

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