By lex, on August 19th, 2004
Flight school, Pensacola, Florida, 1983. Free time is there for the asking – beaches, bars and ground school. The very occasional flight.
The opportunity to go to the gym.
Nearby was the fledgling Naval Aviation Museum (it has changed a lot since then). In my day (God, how old that makes me feel), it was little more than a dusty parking apron with a few corroded relics lying in the blazing summer sun.
Still, it was fun in a junkyard, wonder-what-we’ll-find-lying-in-the-dirt-next kind of way.
One of the things I saw was a P2V Neptune – an anti-submarine airplane from the ancien regime, half-jet, half-prop, all ugly as a mud fence.
The FA-18, which one or two of my more alert readers may be aware that I flew in my previous, glorious, pre-staff officer life, was as yet experimental at this time. From the time I started flying on the line, until the time I left the cockpit, the FA-18 was my baby, my girl. I was proud to be associated with her. Knew her when she was cool.
All pilots feel that way about their main squeeze:
“It is appearances, characteristics and performance that make a man love an airplane, and they, told truly, are what put emotion into one. You love a lot of things if you live around them, but there isn’t any woman and there isn’t any horse, not any before nor any after, that is as lovely as a great airplane, and men who love them are faithful to them even though they leave them for others.” — Ernest Hemingway
What he said.
Anyway, a day came to pass when I had a basic instrument simulator at the air base, Whiting Field. The sim instructors were retired Navy, grizzled, superannuated, reliquaries of expertise. They had to be in their 40′s, most of them.
Some were older.
So before the ride, and after the brief, I had the opportunity to chat with my instructor until the box opened up. It was good form, chatting with the instructor. Showed your humanity. Showed you cared. Sometimes you bonded.
Some times, it was worth another “above average” on your grade sheet. Not that I thought that way. Heaven forfend.
A great way to get a conversation going, I was taught, was to ask your interlocutor about himself. Get a person (a guy especially) talking about himself, and the odds are that he will remember you as a great conversationalist. Try it some time.
No better way than this for a fresh-faced ensign to bond with a hoary retiree, then: “So sir: What did you fly in the fleet?”
My instructor, as it turned out, had flown P2V Neptunes!
Hah! Neptunus victa!
“Really?? I replied, almost breathlessly, “That’s so cool! I saw one of those in the museum yesterday!”
Which didn’t, gentle reader, have entirely the desired bonding effect.
“Get in the box,” the instructor growled.
Live and learn.