“When you’re out of F-8’s, you’re out of fighters.” So goes the saying espoused proudly by all those associated with the F-8 Crusader - one of the Navy’s finest aircraft. Developed in the supersonic era of the mid-1950’s the F-8 went on to earn a reputation for reliability and performance unmatched in the skies above Vietnam, being credited with 20 MiG kills between June 1966 and September 1968.One such event of particular significance was flown by Lt. Cdr. John “Pirate” Nichols of VF-191 on 9 July 1968. While escorting a photo-recon RF-8 from VFP-63 aboard the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, the Crusaders were jumped by two MiG 17s over Vinh, North Vietnam. Nichols called a “left break” to the recon aircraft, and engaged the lead MiG as the second enemy fighter retreated to safety. Although he fired two Sidewinder missiles including a direct hit, Nichols could not bring the MiG down. Streaming raw jet fuel from its tailpipe, the MiG suddenly made a tactical-and fatal-error by turning directly across the bow of Nichol’s decelerating Crusader too close for anything but 20 mm guns. Depicted here is the fateful moment just prior to “Pirate” opening fire to score what became the final aerial victory to be won with guns in Naval history. The hapless MiG had become “Pirate’s Bounty.” John Bennett Nichols, III (September 28, 1931 – June 17, 2004) was a United States Navy aviator and author. Raised in Hialeah, Florida, Nichols enlisted in the United States Army and served as a combat medic during the Korean War. After attending college he was accepted for NavCad training and commissioned in 1957. Originally he flew the North American FJ-4 Fury but shortly thereafter he flew the Vought F-8 Crusader, the aircraft that defined his professional career. Nichols joined Fighter Squadron 62 (VF-62) and adopted the callsign "Pirate." He also became a landing signal officer as well as a flight and tactics instructor. In the latter capacity he was one of the founding members of the Naval Fighter Weapons School that evolved into "Topgun."The original artwork, a 24” x 36” oil on canvas, is dedicated to all those who flew the Crusader in war and peace.EDITION: 1000 signed/numbered by John B. Nichols III and Mike Machat. SIZE: 13” x 24”
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