Captain Bob Pardo (back-seater 1st Lt Steve Wayne) and wingman Captain Earl Aman (back-seater 1st Lt Robert Houghton) from the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. In March 1967, they made aviation history.
March 10th, 1967, the sky was clear for a bombing run on a steel mill in North Vietnam just north of Hanoi. During the course of the mission, both F-4 Phantom IIs were hit by anti-aircraft guns. Aman's plane took the worst damage; his fuel tank had been hit, and he quickly lost most of his fuel. He did not have enough fuel to make it to a tanker aircraft orbiting over Laos.
To avoid having Aman and Houghton bail out over hostile territory, Pardo amazingly decided to try pushing the airplane. Pardo first tried pushing the plane using Aman's drag chute compartment but turbulence prevented this from occurring.
Next, Pardo tried to use Aman's tail hook to push the plane, the Phantom having been originally designed as a naval aircraft equipped with a heavy duty tailhook for landings aboard aircraft carriers.
Aman lowered his tailhook and Pardo moved behind Aman until the tailhook was against Pardo's windscreen. Pardo told Aman to shut down both of his J79 jet engines, as Aman was nearly out of fuel and the engines interfered with Pardo's plan. The push worked, reducing the rate of descent considerably, but the tailhook slipped off the windscreen every 15 to 30 seconds, and Pardo would have to reposition his plane. Pardo also struggled with a fire in one of his own engines and eventually had to shut it down. In the remaining 10 minutes of flight time, Pardo used the one last engine to slow the descent of both planes.
With Pardo's plane running out of fuel after pushing Aman's plane almost 88 miles, the planes reached Laos airspace at an altitude of 6000 feet. With only 120 seconds of fuel remaining, The two pilots and their backs eaters ejected, evaded capture, and were picked up by rescue helicopters.
Although Pardo was initially criticized for not saving his own aircraft, he and Wayne eventually received the Silver Star for the maneuver, albeit nearly two decades after the incident.