A Life in Aviation

James F. Badgrow  CMSgt USAF (retired)

CMSgt Jim BadgrowJames F. Badgrow was born, November 25 1927, to Frank and Grace Badgrow.  He grew up in a small farming community near Atlanta, Michigan.  After graduation from Atlanta High School he enlisted in the United States Army and served from 1946 to 1948, spending a year in Korea with the 7th Infantry Division.  After separation from the Army he came home and learned to fly, receiving his Private Pilot license in a Taylorcraft BC-12D. In December 1948 he came to Alameda, California to attend an Aircraft and Engine Mechanics school at Oakland airport on the GI Bill.  Upon completion he passed the FAA examinations and received his license as an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic.

In 1949 he joined the California Air National Guard's 61st Fighter Wing, later re-designated the 144th Fighter Wing, then at Alameda, California.  He became a full time Air Technician at Hayward Air National Guard Base in 1952, working as an aircraft mechanic, maintaining the units F-51, T-6 and C-47 aircraft. He flew as a Flight Mechanic on the unit's C-47 and the C-47 "The Grizzly" operated by the State Headquarters.  When the 144th moved to Fresno in 1954 he elected to remain at Hayward with the newly formed 129th Air Resupply Squadron.  He served as both Aircraft mechanic and Flight mechanic on the units C-46 aircraft, then transitioned to the HU-16 Albatross and next to the C119 Flying Boxcar.  In 1972, the now  Master Sergeant Badgrow,  participated in a mission ferrying C-119's from the United States across the Pacific ocean to Viet Nam.  In 1974 he deployed across the Atlantic ocean with part of the Squadron for a NATO exercise in Italy.

In 1975 the unit became the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.   With that came a change of mission from Special Operations to Air Force Rescue, flying the Lockheed HC-130 Rescue Hercules.  After completing his Flight Engineer training on the C-130 at Littlerock AFB and HC-130 at Hill AFB,  he served as both Flight Instructor and Flight Examiner.   Prior to the unit’s 1980 move to Moffett Field, he was assigned to the Squadron’s Standardization/Evaluation section, serving as its NCOIC and was then promoted to Senior Master Sergeant  After retiring from the Air Technician program, December 30 1982, he was transferred to aircraft maintenance as Organizational Maintenance Chief  and was promoted to Chief Master Sergeant

On  July 16 1983 after more than thirty five years of military service Chief Badgrow retired from the 129th ,the Air National Guard and the USAF.  During his service with the 129th  the Unit  received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation.  The Air Force Commendation Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal are also significant among the eighteen  military Decorations worn below his Chief Aircrew Member Wings.

Southern Air Boeing 707 on approach to landing

While with the 129th he had acquired his FAA Flight Engineer's license.  Not quite ready to retire from flying, in February 1984 he was hired by  Southern Air Transport, a Miami, Florida based cargo airline.  He flew  as a Flight Engineer on both domestic and international routes.    Initially flying on the company’s Lockheed  L-382, a civilian version of the C-130 Hercules, then transitioned to  the Boeing 707. After flying nearly 6000 hours in that aircraft they were phased out  and he transitioned to the Douglas DC-8 in 1993.  When the DC-8 was retired he went on to the Boeing 747.  Places like Auckland, Bombay, Hong Kong, Frankfort, Fiji, London,  Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney, would became familiar stopovers.   While on the Boeing 707 he flew cargo missions in support of the 1990/91 Gulf War and was awarded the Civilian Desert Shield / Desert Storm Medal by the United States Air Force. 

After retiring from the airline in September 1998 he did some Research and Development  flying for a company developing Hush Kits for older jet airliners.    November 1 1999 would find him on a ferry flight at the Flight Engineer's panel of a very plush Boeing 707, owned by entertainer John Travolta.  His last flight as a Flight Engineer came on  December 14 2000 at the panel of a Douglas DC-8.   After most of a  lifetime in aviation, he retired with more than 22,000 total flying hours, over 10,000 hours in heavy jet airliners and a first hand view of much of the world, which he had circumnavigated more than once.  He now enjoys retirement in the southern California beachside city of Oceanside where he maintains a active interest in his community, aviation and computers   In addition to maintaining this web site, he also served as the Webmaster for the 129th Alumni and Heritage Association from March 2003 to July 2008; he is a lifetime member.  Currently he is a member of the Old Bold Pilots of Oceanside and functions as their webmaster.


§ "Air Technician"  Excepted Federal Civil Service positions which provide full time support to Air National Guard units.  Military membership in the unit served is a condition of employment.

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Last edited : 02/02/19