In the early 2000’s I was honored to speak at an Air Force Flight Surgeon’s Course at Brooks AFB, TX. The topic of my presentation was, “How do pilots hide their drinking from Flight Surgeons.” (Spoiler Alert: We lie to ’em. Shocking!). It was during that presentation that morning that I realized just how much alcohol took from me, what I missed in flying by ‘flying drunk’ all those years. Not ‘physically drunk, but certainly emotionally and psychologically drunk… in a ‘stupor’ if you will.
I had seen the acceptance speech of Terry Bradshaw where he lamented about ‘sticking his hands under Mike Webster’s butt just one more time.’ That one comment really resonated with me. I don’t know why that thought came to me during my presentation that morning, but it did, and I shared it with the residents. (Have a look at the video below, 36 seconds into it…)
“What I wouldn’t give right now to strap on the Jet (the T-38A) and punch those Start buttons just one more time,” I lamented that day. I must have struck a nerve with ‘Voodoo,’ one of the Residents, for a couple years later I was given that opportunity!
I was almost 60 years old at that time, and such a thing is almost unheard of. But Voodoo went to ‘the mat’ for me, and I got a ride.
And oh, how it all flowed back to me in an heartbeat! The seat training/orientation, the mini-physical, strapping in – I savored every bit of it! Then when the air conditioner began ‘spitting’ at me on takeoff I was in Hog Heaven! When the sweat began running down into my eyes I just let it sting, lest the experience escape me once again.
When I was given the opportunity to fly my IP asked me if I remembered how to perform a Loop. (For perspective, I had been flying ’38s when this major was still in liquid form!) I couldn’t find the G-meter in the new cockpit configuration (T-38C), so I flew to the ‘tickle’ and help it over the top. It worked out fine, and so it went.
The hour just flew by and soon we landed. As we taxied in we punched off the intercom and dropped our masks. I took a moment to reflect – to just “be’ with it all, and I found myself in prayer. I thanked God for having had the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream of flying, for the realization that, at one time, I wasn’t too bad at it, and for not hurting anyone – myself or anyone else.
When I retired from the Air Force on 15 Jul 1988 I left somewhat ‘unsettled’ with respect to my flying career. I could never quite put my finger on it, but on this date, 26 May 2006, I climbed out of the Jet “complete.” I was at Peace…
Terry, I also ‘stuck my hands under Mike Webster’s butt one more time!