About “Lonely Pilot Bob”

On 1 November 1984 I pinned on silver Lt. Col. maple leaves.  To celebrate we held a party at our house; “The Changing of the Leaves.”  (Major’s leaves are gold, and it was fall, after all.)  Sue’s folks had driven in from Colorado to help with the festivities.  I was thrilled, for I had tended bar at her Dad’s promotion party to Colonel; and now he was returning the favor!  The party was set for Friday night, 2 Nov 1984.  Sue and her folks had to run errands mid-afternoon, so I was alone to prepare the house.  That translated to drinking beer, and maybe running the vacuum around a little bit – you know, just enough to get those tell tale sweeper prints in the carpet.  Around 2 or so, the phone rang.  “Is this Bob?” the caller asked.  “Why, yes it is,” I replied.”  Well, I  just called to say congratulations on your promotion,” he went on to say.”Who is this?” I asked.”Oh, it doesn’t matter,” he said, “what matters is to see a ‘good guy’ get promoted,” and he hung up.

“That was strange,” I thought to myself, and went about my beer – ahhh, sweeping.  Then the phone rang again.

“Hi Bob?” the caller asked again.  Only this time it was a different caller.  I began to suspect someone from Headquarters was playing an elaborate joke, so I played along.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Well, it’s just great to see you promoted!” he said.

“Who is this?” again I asked.  Now I was curious.

“Never mind Sir, just enjoy your day,” he responded as he hung up.

As I was trying to sort it all out, the phone rang again.  This time however, the caller was female and she asked, “Is this Bob?”

“Why yes, it is!” I replied.

“Why are you lonely?” she asked.  That threw me.  Where would she get that?

“I’m not lonely,” I replied.

“Well, I hope you have a great day; you deserve it!” she then said and she hung up.


And then the calls really began coming; one after another.  And all with one of two themes; ‘congratulations on your promotion,’ or, ‘why are your lonely?’  I could hardly sit down.  The sweeping had gone by the wayside long ago.  I must have received 25 – 30 calls, then I began thinking.  “What would create an situation where seemingly folks from all different walks of life would call to offer congratulations?  Then it hit me – a classified ad!

I grabbed the paper, and began canvasing the classifieds.  And it wasn’t long before I found it:

“Oh Bewdy” was the expression I had on my license tag.

“Lonely Pilot Bob” has finally been promoted.  Please Call & Congratulate Him.  Day of Night.  659-4080.”

And the calls kept coming!

When Sue and her folks got home, I told them about the calls, and they kept coming.  Around 5:30 or 6:00 I began to receive calls from the ‘Happy Hour’ crowds.  One group of secretaries invited me downtown to “cure my loneliness!”  And the calls continue.

Great gag!  And I knew who set it up – DiRago!  Could only be.  And sure enough, it was.  He ran that damn thing for 3 days.  And the calls kept coming!

When I decided to do a blog, I went through quite a few names for it.  All taken.  Then I stumbled across this, and it stuck.  Am I lonely today?  Generally no, not really.  However I do on occasion, get terribly lonely for the camaraderie and the “days of yesteryear.”  Writing about it has always helped me through those periods when I miss “the jet,” the flying, and most of all, you.

For those of you who know me, you know how much I have always loved ‘telling a story.’  Now I am in my element!  And to think, I hated writing OERs (Officer Efficiency Reports).  And I never took writing in college because I was afraid either ‘you would laugh at me,’ or ‘what I had to say, didn’t matter.’  Today, I hope you find laughter in what I have to say!

What I intend to do here is, share stories I have collected over the years.  A lot of you will recognize the “players” in a few of them; some of you are the “players.”  I might also include other stories, or short ‘snippets’ I’ve picked up over the years on Air Force pilots.  The idea is not to embarrass anyone; but to reflect on how very blessed we all were – to have flown for the Air Force, when we did…

My second motivation for writing is to leave ‘something’ for my grand kids – to know me by.  Right from my heart…

So, ‘climb in the jet with me,’ or ‘hop on my wing,’ or saddle up next to me in “the Auger,” and we’ll share some memories of a much simpler time – a time before ‘dropped calls!’

PS:  When I reported for work, that following Monday, “Lonely Pilot Bob” had been painted in my normal parking spot!”  The gag just kept giving…






12 Responses to About “Lonely Pilot Bob”

  1. Ron Henning says:

    You have a T-38 in your back yard? Chuck Thornton will get it flying again!

    • Tom Butcher says:

      I saw that T-38 as well. We had a Sq. of them at Tyndall when I was stationed there. Good eye.

  2. Jane Hyde says:

    Love the stories – keep ’em comin’

  3. Gary Banks says:

    Somewhere in the past you photo shopped me a picture of a F-105 parked in your pasture. Thinking about this Memorial Day weekend, can you dredge up a copy?



  4. Nice stories!

    Here’s an off-the-wall question for you: What was Vance’s T-38 RSU call sign in the early 80s? For the life of me, I can’t remember.

    • Cheeta17 says:

      Try “Shoehorn…”



      • jerry fine says:

        one of your posts caught my eye when you mentioned a fallen c-130 pilot named Tom W.; Tom was a very close friend and I lost contact with him and later learned that his plane had been shot down and still later found his name on the Wall. I have a letter from him dated Oct 9, 1971 and would like to present it to his family. He was from /near Chicago but I’ve been unable to track them down. Do you have any information on his family. Please email and I will provide more details. thank you, jerry

  5. Bill Holmes says:

    I just found your blog on a “Couple of Nights at the Auger”. I was doing a little research to find references to the Auger Inn and stumbled across your stuff. Outstanding! I graduated from UPT in 7108…one class behind you. I was in the hanger when Vandenberg arrived…I will never forget that weekend…it was endless! Just a quick Vandenberg story…when I got my assignment, it was in the recon block and I came out in an EC-47 pipelined to Tan Son Nhut! I was devasted…I wanted the EC-135 so I could fly for Braniff. My wife, at the time, was a pacifist hippy. She wrote a letter to Nixon telling him why I should not go to Vietnam. It got bounced back to the Pentagon and down to my wing commander…Hoyt S. Vandenberg Jr. I got called into his office. He had an F4 stick grip mounted on a stand on his desk. As he was telling me how my impending tour in Vietnam would be a highlight of my life and how I had better start controlling my wife, he was squeezing the trigger on the stick grip. He was right…it was an amazing experience! I learned to fly! I got out after my commitment was up and flew for Braniff until I lost the hearing in my left ear. I can honestly say that your blog on the Auger was like going back in time! Thanks!

    • Cheeta17 says:

      Responses like yours here are so fun to receive! Thank you… That certainly was a great time in my life. Do you remember ‘Booger’ Malone, or Hadley Thompson? I have posts on those guys also. I ran into Hoyt in Australia in 1981. Reminded him of the Night at the Auger, and he was still smiling.

  6. Ray Hunter says:

    Good talking with you at the QB meeting…come up to the Yankee Air Museum some time. Willow Run Air Show (Thunder over Michigan). Last time I was in an AF Officers Club was at Seymour Johnson, maybe five years ago. All the Majors, and some of the Lt Cols looked like teenagers to me. Hate getting old, but can still BS my way through the AME. Take care…
    Ray Hunter UPT Class 63-H, Craig AFB. T29-C131 Flight Commander 12th Ops Sq. Mar 73-Jul 75.

  7. Carolyn says:

    I enjoyed reading this,
    Thank You for sharing this with me.

  8. mike mooney says:

    major Huntley I see that u remember most of my name I was your crew chief on 63-8351 the Showboat. Thanks I see that U and the capt got a great picture at the air museum glad u kept the flag – hope things are well with u and yours – they would have never let me put thunderballs on the side of the plane anyway. Mike

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.