Former T-birds pilot dies here
• Col. Charles Maultsby also played a role in the Cuban missile crisis.
PAUL L. ALLEN Citizen Staff Writer
Charles ”Chuck” Maultsby, a retired Air Force colonel who flew with the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, served as a NATO official and was a crucial factor in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, has died in Tucson.
Col. Maultsby died Aug. 14. He was 72. The cause of death was not given.
In the early 1960s, Col. Maultsby piloted U-2 spy aircraft and gained notice as the pilot detected over Russian airspace during the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 – an incident with serious political repercussions.
The incident occurred in the midst of head-to-head confrontations between President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that brought the world’s two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war.
The overflight, which was blamed on a navigational error, could have been interpreted as an attack on the Soviet Union at a time when the United States demanded that the Soviets remove missiles from Cuba.
However, subsequent negotiation produced a nuclear test ban treaty.
His son, Charles Maultsby II, said his father’s flight was featured on the NBC documentary about the missile crisis, ”One Minute to Midnight.”
Kennedy, hearing of the overflight and its detection by the Russians, is said to have exclaimed, ”There’s always some son-of-a-bitch who doesn’t get the word.”
Col. Maultsby was born June 7, 1926, in Greenville, N.C. Orphaned at age 8, he went on to become a highly decorated fighter pilot and aeronautical engineer, his son said.
He flew 14 missions in F-80 fighters during the Korean War before being shot down and spending 22 months as a prisoner of war in China.
In 1958, he became a member of the Fighter Weapons Team (the Air Force’s ”Top Gun” school) at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and was ranked as one of the top five fighter weapons gunners in the world.
Later that year, he joined the Thunderbirds, flying the right wing position in the diamond formation.
From 1965 to 1968, Col. Maultsby flew F-4 fighters in Vietnam, completing 214 combat missions.
From 1974 to 1977, he served as inspector general for combat readiness with NATO forces in Naples, Italy.
Col. Maultsby was awarded 18 decorations for his military service including the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with 19 clusters.
No funeral service is planned.
Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Jeanne; sons Chuck II and Kevin of Tucson and Shawn of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and grandsons Chuck and Stevie of Tucson.