Sunday, October 26, 2008

Courage

It's funny the things you can find on the inernet without actually meaning to. I was doing a Google search for "The Final Countdown movie F-14 pilots disciplinary action" based on a review of the movie, "The Final Countdown" I saw at a DVD site.

For those not familiar, the movie "The Final Countdown" was a story about the aircraft carrier Nimitz time traveling back to December 7th, 1941 and then having the opportunity with it's carrier air wing to prevent the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor from happening. The attraction to many an airplane nut was the fantastic footage of F-14's attacking "Zeros". Especially the scene where they received permission to "splash" the Zeros..."I say again splash the Zeros". Just writing about it makes me recall how cool watching that was.

Anyway urban legend has it that a lot of the stuff done for Hollywood was a bit beyond what the Navy would consider "safe", and many of the participants to include the squadron commander were rumored to have been punished. I wondered if there was anything to be found on the internets about this and began a search.

What I found was much more rewarding and a trip down a different memory lane. People ask all the time how I decided I wanted to fly military aircraft. If I always wanted to be a pilot.

As a child I lived about four blocks from the Heart of Texas Coliseum, home of the Heart of Texas Fair and Rodeo. Every first week of October the fair rolled into town and with it back then came the military static displays. All manner of tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and coolest of all helicopters...especially that AH-1 Cobra. Add to that the fact that Waco had an Air Force base that just closed down (James Connally AFB) and there were the husks of several old USAF fighters sitting on the fairground that I would see every day going to school. I still remember the looming silver bodies of the F-86D, F-89 Scorpion and the T-33 T-Bird that stood guard just up the street from my house. Finally, the fact that we lived on the final approach to one of the runways at the Waco airport meant I got an almost daily dose of aviation.

I remember every OCT riding my bike as fast as I could make it go trying to get up the street to see the "birds" before they landed. I would get there and be transfixed by the site of a helicopter landing in a field...snapping pictures with my Kodak Instamatic camera, so I could then draw them later.

It was odd that I ended up being an aviator given that neither of my parents would even get into an airplane much less fly anywhere in their lives. I remember asking my mother if she would even let me fly her...her not answering was my answer.

Given all that, I can understand and appreciate even more this essay by Bill Whittle over at Eject! Eject! Eject!

Here is a portion...you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.


COURAGE
Sometimes, even when you are very young, something happens in your life that is so profound, so astonishing and so big that you just know everything has changed and you will never be who you were again. I had one such experience at age 5, and I was to have another eleven years later.

I grew up in Bermuda. My father was a hotel manager, so I grew up in the most perfect corner of Bermuda. I would go to Warwick Academy and sing God Save the Queen in my blazer and school tie. Usually we'd take the bus home, but when mom picked us up, we'd wriggle into bathing suits in the back seat and go snorkeling for a few hours. This was pretty much every day. And, like just about everyone else at that age, at that time, I had decided that my future would consist of being a railroad engineer, or a fireman, or a cowboy ' that would be a Daniel Boone, coonskin cap, Winchester rifle and buckskin kind of cowboy, not the garden-variety pretty-boy kind with the chaps and the showy chrome six-shooters. I considered them a little too precious for real work, even at that age.

I didn't know it then, but I would have traded all of that for a father with a nine-to-five job selling insurance, because the price of such a life was a dad who lived his job. Most dads lived their jobs in those days. It's just that mine had a full day of work to do, and then a full night of entertaining as well.

So I was just happy to be spending time with my dad as we sat in the bleachers at Kindley Air Force Base, down at the other end of the island. A two hour wait in the sun is interminable at that age, but finally, six men in blue jumpsuits appeared, and walked down the flight line like robots. People applauded politely. I did too. Didn't seem worth a two-hour wait, though'

They climbed into their silver jets with the red, white and blue stripes and the numbers on the tails. I found out later that they were F-100 Super Sabers ' really glorious airplanes, sleek and muscular. Down came the canopies in unison. Then they started the engines.

Better'

They taxied to the end of the runway, took off in a roar, and disappeared out over the turquoise and green reefs. Spectacular! Great show! Not sure it was worth two hours, and that one guy down there won't stop talking'

Launched on May 25th, 1953'powerful symbol of the American Indian'never missed a show due to maintenance problems, blah blah blah...

Hey, thought the five-year-old, the jets are gone, show's over, let's get out of the heat...

But behind my back were six of America's most powerful fighter aircraft and the best pilots on the planet, not a hundred feet above the water and racing toward the rear of our bleachers at nearly seven hundred miles an hour ' just under the speed of sound. And I mean just under.

So when I looked down at this man in the blue jumpsuit, I couldn't hear them coming, because they were only a few feet behind their own roar. And when he said, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, the United States Air Force---' something caught my eye at what seemed like a few feet above my head. I saw a blur of silver and red, white and blue, and that's about all I had time for, because the man shouted into his microphone the word '---THUNDERBIRDS!" and that's when the sound hit.

And that was about all she wrote for little Billy. I was pretty much done after that...


Read the rest HERE

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