When I graduated from UPT, I was about 21 months behind my peers from college. (I had that pesky color vision issue to deal with before I was accepted to pilot training.) Nevertheless, I began hustling for flying time right out of the gate. Besides my desire to “catch up” with my “year group,” I just loved to fly. The beginning line from Radney Foster’s song, “Angel Flight” kinda says it all: “All I ever wanted to do is fly, leave this world and live in the sky…” He goes on, “…I go up some days, I don’t want to come down.” Kind of there this morning… but, back to the story here.
In C-141s at McGuire, I volunteered to fly anywhere – I was a scheduler’s dream! I would “go” at the drop of a hat. One evening they called and told me they had a trip to Anchorage and back. We were to “deadhead” (ride) up, RON (remain over night), then fly a jet home the next day. So, I grabbed a helmet bag I had, stuffed in a change of underwear and toiletries and out the door I went.
Enroute to Alaska it seems like EVERY gomer in North Vietnam decided to come South! They must have had a sale of some kind or another. So, we were rescheduled and sent “downrange” – for 13 days! And me with 1 set of underwear, and my shaving kit! Oh well…
I continued to hustle for flying time when I got to SEA (Southeast Asia), logging 512 hours (in the HC-130) in the year I was over there. That isn’t bad, considering the month I had off for R&R (Rest and Recuperation).
Once I got into T-38s, I really began to “hustle” flying time; however the motivation was not so much to catch up with my peers anymore, as it was the pure JOY to fly the T-38!
I loved every moment of it. (And that’s another reason I can’t play golf – I would have rather taken a jet cross country on a weekend than play golf – and I did, frequently!)
In the mid-eighties ‘Rat’ (Jim E.) and I would often snag an “open jet” to fly. This was a jet on the schedule that for some reason or another, became “open.” Either the student or IP scheduled to fly was sick, or the student failed the ride before, or what-ever – the jet was “open,” and off we would go. Then, after landing, we would call back into the squadron to see if there were any other “open jets.” If there was, we would grab it! One of us would go in and sign out, while the other pre-flighted – and soon we were airborne again!
In the late eighties I was the 12th Student Squadron Commander, and I was still “flying my ass off!” There were 3 flying squadrons at Randolph at the time. The T-38 squadron commander was averaging 8 hours per month; the T-37 squadron commander was flying 11 hours a month and there I was at 35! (And this will be the subject of my next post…)
After I was relieved of Command (because I was retiring) the Boss told me, “Since all you seem to like to do is fly, that’s what we are going to have you doing for the next 6 -7 months.” Damn, why didn’t I think of retiring earlier? My monthly average then rose to almost 50 hours per month!
On my last day on Active Duty I flew twice! The first sortie was a student sortie; the second a “Fini-Flight.” I subsequently retired when I climbed down off the ladder… what a great way to go!
I finished my Air Force flying career with 5,210.2 hours. Not bad…
(To put this in perspective, I wouldn’t have a clue how many flying hours I have at the airlines!)