Steamboat Springs Gen. Robin Olds, who became a fighter pilot ace in World War II and the Vietnam War, died peacefully at his home in Steamboat Springs on Thursday. He was 84.
Olds was a former commandant of the U.S. Air Force Academy and is a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame. A brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force, he was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and received his commission as a second lieutenant in June 1943.
A member of the football team at West Point, he was named an All-American tackle in 1942. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Olds achieved the unusual distinction of becoming a fighter ace in two wars that were 23 years apart. He was rated a triple ace after shooting down 17 enemy aircraft during the course of 259 combat missions in Europe during World War II and in Vietnam.
In Steamboat Springs, Olds pursued a passion for skiing and served on the city Planning Commission. He accepted many speaking engagements across the country and continued to do so into his 80s. Olds made 21 speaking appearances in 2005 and 13 more in 2006.
He completed pilot training in 1943 and began his combat flying during World War II in a P-38 Lightning named "Scat 1." By the end of the war, he was flying a P-51 Mustang he called "Scat VII." During the course of 107 missions, he was credited with downing 13 aircraft and destroying another 11.5 aircraft on the ground.
After the war, Olds flew as wingman on the first jet acrobatic team in the Air Force. He also claimed second place in the Thompson Trophy Race at Cleveland in 1946.
In September of that year, he began flying P-80 jets at March Field, Calif. He went to England in the autumn of 1948 under an exchange program with the Royal Air Force. While in Great Britain, he commanded the No. 1 fighter Squadron for the Royal Air Force.
He moved on to Southeast Asia in 1966 and commanded the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base. He resumed combat flying in "Scat XXVII," an F-4 Phantom II and completed 152 missions, 105 of them over North Vietnam. Using his aircraft's air-to-air missiles, he shot down two MIG-17s and two MIG-21s, two of them on a single mission.
He returned to the United States in December 1967 and became commandant of the Air Force Academy, a post he continued until February 1971.
He was promoted to brigadier general in 1968 and retired from the military in 1973.
Among the many military decorations he received were the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters.
In 2003, Olds was featured with fighter pilots such as Chuck Yeager and Walker "Bud" Mahurin in the FOX television show "War Stories with Oliver North." Interviews with Olds continue to appear on the History Channel program "Dogfights."
Olds will be memorialized in services including a flyover July 7 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. His body will be cremated, and his ashes will remain at the Academy.
Plans for a service in Steamboat Springs are pending.