Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Robert ‘Bob‘ Vaucher dies at 102

Vaucher’s intimate relationship with the four-engine bomber began when he delivered the first one to the armed forces from Boeing’s Pratt, Kansas, factory at age 24 in 1943. It culminated at age 101 when Vaucher supervised pilots from the navigator’s station during an honorary flight aboard the restored B–29 Doc on September 25, 2020. After the flight above the rolling hills of northern Virginia, Vaucher was animated as he regaled Doc pilot Steve Zimmerman with a few stories from war missions when things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Weak brakes, a lack of reversible props, and a nosewheel collapse cut one wartime B–29 mission short. During another, Vaucher’s heavily laden long-range bomber struggled to gain altitude when one of the four supercharged 2,200-horsepower Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclone engines feathered unexpectedly on takeoff. “I staggered out” as the 138,000-pound aircraft slowly gained altitude, he recalled to Zimmerman. “What happened was that when the co-pilot ganged the power down from our takeoff engine speed of 2,900 rpm to 2,600 rpm or so, one of the toggle switches stuck and an engine went into feather mode. I could barely keep the airspeed up above a stall. Fortunately, we took off at sea level and remained at sea level for the next 10 miles, so I was able to baby the thing up to get going.”

“I flew it so much it was second nature to me,” Vaucher said from the pilot seat of the B–29 during a video recounting his wartime flying experience. “I have 3,000 hours sitting in this chair—a year and a half of work.”

Vaucher was the honorary air boss for the Arsenal of Democracy warbird flyover of the nation’s capital in honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II in the European theatre before the mission was scrubbed for weather.

Arsenal of Democracy air boss Mike Ginter, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, had kind words about Vaucher’s visit to northern Virginia. “The AOD just jazzed him up!  It was evident that Bob’s energy level increased as he engaged with flyover pilots and took in the sights and sounds of world War II warbirds. He really helped us remember why we organized the seventy-fifth anniversary flyover—Bob made it personal for all of us.”

Ginter said that pilots loved hanging out with Vaucher. Ginter was performing an informal pilot briefing to warbird pilots at

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