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Maj. Patterakis was born on July 23, 1935, in Van Houten, New Mexico. He was the son of Gregory Patterakis from Crete and Eleni (Helen) Katsufrakis, also of Greek heritage, who had also two more children Grace Patterakis and Emmanuel Patterakis. At the age of six, his family moved to Modesto California where Patterakis finished the School in 1953. He enlisted to the USAF and served for 4 years in the Military Police before he applied for pilot and accepted. He went to the pilot training school in 1961 in Texas and later he became an instructor himself. His flying skills and his will to fly with the Air Force Demonstration Team, the famous Thunderbirds bear fruits when he had been selected to fly the No. 2 position as left-wing on the 1966-1967 team flying the F-100 Super Sabres, becoming the first Greek American who joined this elite aviation group. During 1967-68 he was trained in the mighty F-4 Phantom, in F-4 Replacement Training Unit, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. He later flew 315 combat missions (60 over the North) during the Vietnam War, flying F-4C Phantom II based at Cam Ranh Bay with the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron. He was awarded several medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. After his tour of duty in South East Asia, he returned to Nellis and attended F-4 Fighter Weapons Instructor Course and Wild Weasel Instructor Course before he became an F-4 air-to-air instructor and Wild Weasel instructor attached to the 414th Fighter Weapons Squadron. Between 1971-73 he served in F-4 Operational Test and Evaluation, 422nd Fighter Weapons Squadron, Nellis AFB and the following year he was named staff officer, Fighter Requirements, Air Superiority, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley AFB, Va. During his service there he worked on the development of the F-15 Eagle and its introduction into the Air Force inventory. Maj. Patterakis commanded the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team based at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas from 1975 to 1977 flying the nimble T-38 Talon. He was notably the first Greek American Thunderbirds Leader he had also the distinction to be the commander during the Bicentennial anniversary flying a specially decorated Talon. His Air Force career includes seven years enlisted and 17 years as a pilot, flying more than 5,100 hours in the F-86, F-100, F-4C/E and T-38 aircraft  

In 1978, he launched an unsuccessful bid for Congress. He was considered a promising Republican candidate when a northern San Joaquin Valley House seat opened up that year. Without any political experience, he took on Democrat Tony Coelho, a seasoned Capitol Hill staffer, and lost. He got the Greek community, which was traditionally Democratic, to vote for him, and he won Modesto. Maj. Patterakis ' military colleagues remembered him for his strong leadership. During 1980-83 he worked as a Program Director, in Advanced Programs of the Northrop Aircraft Division, Hawthorne, Calif. While there he visited Greece as Northrop's representative and engaged in F-20 Tigershark and F-18L programs. He later started his own local telephone company and worked for 10 years as a pilot for United Airlines until his retirement in 2001.  The Pentagon lured Maj. Patterakis out of retirement shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. He and his wife, Vicki, left their Modesto home and moved to northern Virginia. He was named a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, assigned to oversee programs intended to boost ethnic, gender and economic diversity in the military. Maj. Patterakis died May 9, 2006, of unknown causes while visiting Patrick Air Force Base in Florida and he left behind his wife, Vicki Frazier and his four children, Donna, Patti, Marc and Alicia.  

Further details will be revealed on Volume D' of 'GREEKS IN FOREIGN COCKPITS'

The T-38 Talon was the world’s first supersonic trainer and had been an essential part of training Air Force pilots (and amazingly, still is). Upon being selected as the replacement to the massive and thirsty Phantom, team members realized the much sleeker and efficient trainer was so small that the traditional T-bird markings could not be seen by the audience. Accordingly, the paint scheme had to be modified to a more abstract design while still keeping some of the team’s trademark features. Thereafter, it was in this plane that the Thunderbirds became an official Bicentennial organisation and were allowed to display the official Bicentennial logo on their tails even though only military installations supposedly qualified for such designation. Likewise, it was in this plane that on July 4, 1976 the T-Birds were awarded the unprecedented privilege of flying over the Capital dome during the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. However, for some it also is this plane that evokes more emotion than any other plane flown by the Thunderbirds because it was involved in an unprecedented tragedy that almost resulted in the disbandment of the team. Though Captain Charlie Carter had been killed in a 1977 accident while flying a T-bird Talon, years later several accidents occurred over a short period of only eight months. In May of 1981 Captain Nick Hauk was killed when his T-38 stalled and crashed, while four months later in September of 1981 Lieutenant Colonel D.L Smith was killed when his plane stalled after ingesting seagulls and his ejection seat’s parachute failed to properly deploy. Then, another four months later -- after the remainder of the 1981 season had been cancelled -- in January of 1982 during training the entire four plane diamond formation flew their T-38’s straight into a Nevada field killing Major Norm Lowry, Captain Pete Peterson, Captain Willie Mays and Captain Mark Melancon. Though there were calls for the team (and perhaps all flight demonstration teams) to disband, both the executive and legislative branches of the United States government staunchly supported the continuation of the T-birds. After a year of rebuilding, the Air Force Thunderbirds flew its next show in March of 1983 in the new F-16 Fighting Falcon. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)