Monthly Archives: May 2014

From Townhall: And Touched The Face Of God

Passing this along to all of us.

Among The Joshua Trees

This piece was at Townhall and a friend of mine had it on his Facebook. It will make your eyes water a bit, trust me on that one.

“Shortly after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, pilot-poet James Gillespie Magee died. You may remember him via something he wrote:

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.””

“A few years ago, in the ICU of Houston’s Kindred Hospital, another snatch of sorts took place as a hero of a time long past, one who served our nation as a glider pilot during those brief and storied days, was “snatched” from his bed of affliction in a twinkling of an eye. He then soared…

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The Fighter Pilot’s Survival Guide

I was reading the current Smithsonian Air & Space magazine and came across this – Apparently Germany’s Oswald Boelcke wrote the book on tactics that, despite all the changes in performance and electronics – still sound doctrine.

All this from almost 100 years ago.

Didn’t realize too that Robin Olds, American ace, used to turn off most of his electronics in his F4 over Vietnam and just concentrate on the basics…


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Lockheed A-12 in flight (US Air Force photo)

In wandering down assorted internet rabbit holes, I came across a couple of historically interesting articles about the A-12/SR-71 series of aircraft.  The first was from the April, 1964 issue of Air Force Magazine with speculation on the mission and performance of the newly announced A-11.  I’m impressed with what the author was able to deduce from unclassified information in 1964.

Another interesting article is from the CIA website.  (I’m still conflicted about the CIA having a web site.)


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Cutaway Thursday: Convair B-36J Peacemaker



Filed under Aeronautical Engineering, Air Force, Airplanes, Flying, History, Plane Pr0n, USAF

Angel Thunder 2014

(Cross posted at Air Pogue)

What is now the USAF Para Rescue concept was born in the Army Air Force during WWII out of the need to drop rescue personnel in remote locations to assist downed air crews.  Their mission has evolved over the years.  In the late 1940’s and 1950’s the cold war mission of the Air Force placed aircraft over areas where the only practical extraction was via ground, and the PJ’s (para jumpers) we survival experts who dropped to downed crews with the skills to keep them alive till help arrived.  During the Viet Nam conflict the mission evolved into combat search and rescue, with the HH-3 and HH-53 helicopters becoming famous as “Jolly Green Giants.”  With the Iraq and Afghanistan wars the mission was again modified to support special operations.


Yours truly providing a familiarization briefing to US and Columbian Special Forces troops.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Chris Massey/Released)


Angel Thunder is an annual Personnel Recovery exercise where US and foreign forces can practice their combat search and rescue skills.  This year our unit was involved in several supporting missions.  In the video above, the Blackhawks without the refueling probes were ours.  The grey ones with the probes are the Air Force Pavehawks.  Those special forces troops and the Columbian special forces guys shown were some of our customers.  We did several air assaults with them, and I was lucky enough to crew on three of them.


As part of this years exercise, we started by transporting the “White Cell” staff around for their various planning and coordination sessions.  The White Cell are kind of like the umpires of the exercise.  Other activities we were involved in were unconventional recoveries  and a downed aircrew exercise.  For the downed aircrew exercise we flew a mission that was supposed to put a Navy/Marine remote air control tower at a local airport.  The scenario had two ships shot down and a third damaged, with hostile ground activity requiring the downed crews and passengers to navigate cross country to the pick up point.  While we knew there would be a downed crew scenario, none of us knew when or how it was to come down.  The remote tower people were completely taken by surprise, and were not happy campers having to hike through mountainous desert with all their gear.  With them were a couple SERE (survival school) instructors evaluating the exercise.  After a strenuous 4 hour hike they made the PZ (pickup zone) in time for our Apache gunship escort to clear the area for us while we went in for a night recovery using night vision goggles.  This is pretty much how we make our money in Army aviation.  Fortunately for those on the ground one of the crew chiefs who was shot down with them gave them a brief on what to expect when we showed up.  A night helicopter pickup is not like you see in the movies – it’s loud, blinding and painful, particularly in the desert where the debris kicked up by the rotor wash all seems to head for your face.  It’s also disorienting being dark and dusty.  Being an exercise, we took our time picking them up to make sure we had everyone strapped in safely before picking up.  In a hostile area we would make sure we had the right number of people, close the doors and go.


For our air assault missions we would fly to Tuscon, pick up our troops and fly to the exercise area in Florence for the insertion.  The scenario was four friendlies had been captured and were being held by the bad guys.  Our ODA (Operational Detachment A) Team and the Columbian Special Forces soldiers would assault the target buildings and either gather intelligence, capture a high value target, rescue the hostages, or all of the above.  Being an exercise, of course the first couple of raids came up empty.  The first two raids were night operations, so there isn’t much video of them.  The final raid was done during the day, with the troops rescuing the hostages, and capturing the “high value target,” who regrettably succumbed to his injuries (simulated!).


This was an excellent two weeks of training – we flew 180 hours plus another 130 hours of simulator training for some of our new crew members.  We got to work with other services, federal and local agencies, foreign military and the special operations community, which is always a good time.  We also made some connections with people we can hopefully train with in the future.


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We lost a tough, tough man last week

Last month at the banquet for the dedication of the Intruder Tribute and the Intruder Association Reunion at the National Naval Air Museum in Pensacola I noticed a man in a wheelchair seated at the table in the corner not far from me. He seemed familiar, and it took me a while to put the aging face to a name, and suddenly it came to me: the man in the wheelchair was Bob Flynn, a Navy veteran who returned to living life to the fullest after being a POW in China during the Viet Nam years.
Bob was a legend. The story is he carried an old bugle in the cockpit of his A-6 and blew charge on guard frequency every time he went feet dry in Viet Nam. I have no doubt the story is true.
When I told the veterans at my table who the man in the wheelchair was every man left his seat and went to shake Bob Flynn’s hand and talk with him.
It was one of those precious moments in life. Continue reading


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If You Want To Change The World….

Thanks to one of the Lexicans who posted this link to the F/B page I get to share it with you. It is the speech of Adm William McRaven to the University of Texas’ 2014 graduation class.

McRaven talked about how his SEAL training back in 1977 prepared him for life.

Don’t ring the bell.


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