LTG Frank M Andrews and Maj Gen Robert Worley both died while piloting combat aircraft in a war. Wikipedia has pictures of GEN Fogleman, while a four-star Gen, flying the C-17 and F-16.

  1. I'm assuming that generals and admirals are less skilled or prepared to pilot aircraft, as their primary duty is management and leadership, not flying.

  2. Thus GFOs probably ought not be allowed to pilot, but please see the question in the title.

  3. What other GFOs of NATO Rank OF-6 or higher died, while piloting in a war?

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    According to your link, LTG Frank M Andrews was well away from any combat area, and pretty much had to be on board an aeroplane regardless.
    – user31561
    Feb 7, 2019 at 12:39
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    Andrews did not die in a combat flight. As for the general question: Generals were often piloting up to a few years ago, and quite possibly they miss it very much. If he is still in reasonable shape, shows up and asks for a plane, are his subordinates going to stop him? In Andrews case, even easier, it was just a passenger transport flight, which ended in a crash.
    – Luiz
    Feb 7, 2019 at 12:42
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    You should also realize that if you are piloting at all, you are some level of officer.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 7, 2019 at 13:21
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    @T.E.D.: In the RCAF during WW2, 1/2 of those receiving their wings did so as pilot sergeants.and not commissioned officers. Feb 7, 2019 at 14:29
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    I believe that pilots are required to fly a minimum number of hours to maintain their certification; most of the pilots I know work hard to maintain that cert (it is evidence that they are superhuman and almost as important as they think they are.). Your first assumption is in radical tension with everything I know about pilots and military certifications; your second assumption is therefore on very weak ground. "probably ought" is a judgemental term that is not supported by evidence.
    – MCW
    Feb 7, 2019 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


There are two types of people who make it to general.

The first type consists of officers who are personally outstanding in combat. On their way up the ranks, they were so good at shooting down enemy, that when they were given the job of training and leading other men, these subordinates also excelled at personal combat. In their cases, they are among the best "soldiers" in their unit, in addition to being generals. An example in the Army was General William Dean of the Korean War, who personally wielded a bazooka during a battle. (I'm using army officers, since I know them better than air force officers.)

McAndrews and Worley were both this type of general. Yes, they were tasked with "planning" the operations of others, but for such men to do this job, they have to go out to the actual battlefield to get the "look" and "feel" of it for themselves. If that's what they need to do in order to "lead," most of them are given permission to do so. (Consider the size and ranks of the "entourage" that went down with McAndrews.)

The second type consists of officers who aren't so combative or good in the field, but excel at staffing, planning and similar functions. Among army officers, George Patton was the first type of general, and Mark Clark was the second type.

During World War II, there was a Soviet air marshal Alexander Pokryshin who got there by being an "ace" pilot. Only a few aces make it all the way to general, and the ones that do train or induce others to do what they do, successfully. In Pokryshin's case, he basically "re-vamped" Soviet air tactics to make them competitive with the Germans. To do what he did, he had to personally lead others in combat and "learn" (second hand) from their mistakes.

  • and then there is the third kind, who get their stars solely because of political connections.
    – jwenting
    Sep 18, 2020 at 8:14
  • @jwenting: The political type is part of the second group who "excel a staffing, planning and similar functions," including political. Mark Clark was the archetype.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 18, 2020 at 15:53
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    I was thinking more of the utterly incompetents who get given military titles without any merit, training, or skill, but solely because they know the right people or have the right parents.
    – jwenting
    Sep 20, 2020 at 4:46

I'm assuming that generals and admirals are less skilled or prepared to pilot aircraft, as their primary duty is management and leadership, not flying.

Generals and admirals weren't always generals and admirals. As we'll see below, many are very distinguished pilots. And while you're correct that their primary duty is management and leadership, when the general wants to take an aircraft out for a spin who's going to tell them no?

First, let's look at those you mentioned.

General Andrews, USAAF

As has been pointed out in the comments, General Andrews did not die in combat, nor was he believed to be flying the aircraft.

General Worley, USAF

General Worley was a combat pilot during WWII with 120 missions and 215 combat hours, including having been shot down in North Africa. He helped with the transitions to jets. He held the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with seven Oak Leaf Clusters. He died when his recon aircraft was hit by ground fire in Vietnam.

General Fogleman, USAF

General Fogleman is...

...a command pilot and a parachutist, he has amassed more than 6,800 flying hours in fighter, transport, tanker and rotary wing aircraft. He flew 315 combat missions and logged 806 hours of combat flying in fighter aircraft. In early assignments he instructed student pilots, performed combat duty as a fighter pilot and high-speed forward air controller in Vietnam and Thailand, taught history at the Air Force Academy and conducted flight operations in Europe -- including duty as an F-15 aircraft demonstration pilot for international airshows.

He holds the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 17 (!) oak leaf clusters, and the Aerial Achievement Medal.

And looking at some modern officers...

Admiral Lescher, USN

The current Vice Chief of Naval Operations of the US Navy is Admiral Lescher. Admiral Lescher was a helicopter pilot. He was a member of and commanded many helicopter strike groups.

Lescher commanded the Vipers of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light (HSL) Squadron-48, the Airwolves of HSL-40 and the Atlantic Fleet Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing... Lescher’s initial operational tours were with the Lamplighters and Swampfoxes of HSL-36 and 44, deploying primarily to the Middle East region aboard USS O’Bannon (DD 987), USS Clark (FFG 11), USS Capodanno (FF 1068) and USS Elrod (FFG 55)... Ashore, his assignments included leading the SH-60B Seahawk developmental test team as an engineering test pilot at the Naval Air Warfare Center, where he launched the first guided missiles from a Navy helicopter... Lescher graduated with distinction from fixed wing, rotary wing and Naval Test Pilot School training. He has been recognized as the Association of Naval Aviation’s HSL Pilot of the Year, the Naval Helicopter Association’s Regional Pilot of the Year and the Naval Air Warfare Center’s Rotary Wing Test Pilot of the Year.

Admiral Lescher is certainly skilled and prepared to pilot helicopters.

General McConville, US Army

The current US Army Chief of Staff General James McConville...

is a senior Army aviator qualified in the AH-64D Longbow Apache, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, AH-6, AH-1 Cobra and other aircraft. His awards and decorations include two Distinguished Service Medals, three Legions of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, two Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, the Combat Action Badge, the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Master Army Aviator Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Parachutist Badge, and the Army Staff Identification Badge.

He is also a quite skilled and prepared pilot of helicopters.

What other GFOs of NATO Rank OF-6 or higher died, while piloting in a war?

I did a quick scan of US officers killed in combat, because that's what I have easily available, and found...

General George Casey, US Army

General Casey hit a mountain while piloting his command helicopter in Vietnam. He was flying partially on instruments. General Casey held the Army Aviator Badge, Distinguished Flying Cross, and 8 Air Medals.

Major General Bryant E. Moore, USAF

General Crumm was killed while piloting a B-52 en route to a bombing mission. He collided with another B-52.

His first assignment was with the 91st Bomb Group in the European Theatre of Operations as a B-17 pilot. He returned to the United States as a member of the "Most Deserving Bomber Crew of the 8th Air Force" and lectured at 30 combat crew training schools and all of the major aircraft factories.

In 1946 he was assigned to the Flying Training Division, Strategic Air Command, as assistant training officer. In rapid succession he became chief of the Bomb Section, deputy of the Training Section and acting chief of the Training Section.

...He attended B-47 Advanced Flying School at McConnell Air Force Base, Wichita, Kan...

The General wears the wings of command pilot. His decorations include the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster.

Brigadier General Edward Burke Burdett, USAF

General Burdett...

He was commander, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, Korat Royal Thai Air Base. He departed Korat on Nov. 18, 1967 as pilot of number three aircraft in a flight of four F-105D's, on a strike mission over Phuc Yen Airfield, North Vietnam. His aircraft was hit by fragments. He completed his pass, released his bombs, and made a nearly level right turn to exit the area. His aircraft was on fire. He attempted to light his afterburner, was unsuccessful, and the aircraft went into uncontrollable spin into a cloud undercast. No ejection was seen or parachute observed. He was 18 miles west of Hanoi. He was held to be missing in action from Nov. 18, 1967 to Jan. 15, 1968, at which time sufficient evidence was received to warrant placing him in a captured status. Conclusive evidence was received on April 2, 1974 that he had died in captivity on Nov. 18, 1967.

Awards and decorations: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Soldier's Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal. Also, he had been awarded pilot wings by the Bolivian Government.

  • 1
    You omitted Brigadier General (ret) Chuck Yeager!?!? Sep 21, 2020 at 20:50
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    @PieterGeerkens I sampled contemporaries to avoid making a flying General seem exceptional. I don't know if he's still flying at 97, but he is on Twitter!
    – Schwern
    Sep 21, 2020 at 21:03
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    I know - I follow him on twitter, and he was in the air (possibly only as copilot), as recently as a year or so ago. Sep 21, 2020 at 21:15

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