In September, 1969, I reported to NAS Pensacola, Florida a freshly commissioned
Ensign, United States Navy. I progressed through the Naval Aviation training program, flying the T-34B at NAS Saufley Field, Pensacola, the T-2 "Buckeye" at
NAS Meridian, Mississippi, and the TF-9J Cougar at NAS Chase Field, Beeville, Texas. I was awarded my naval aviator wings on May 4, 1971.
I was encouraged to stay in NAS Chase Field as an instructor pilot in Training
Squadron 25 (VT-25). I found out quickly that to really learn your trade, you must teach it. I was an instructor pilot in both the TF-9J and the TA4-J Skyhawk,
instructing in all phases of advanced jet training.
In June, 1973, I reported to Attack Squadron 122, the Navy's west coast
replacement training squadron for the A7E Corsair II. The A7E Corsair was
purchased by the Navy to replace the A4 Skyhawk. The Corsair is a rugged
aircraft, capable of carrying heavy weapons loads, but more important, she
was equipped with an inertial navigation and weapons delivery computing
system that greatly increased the probability bombs would hit the target.
While the A7E radar featured a terrain following mode, and could deliver bombs on radar alone, the workload for one pilot was heavy as the A7 TFR patch above humorously illustrates.
In February, 1974, after completing replacement pilot training, I reported to
Attack Squadron 192, the "World Famous Golden Dragons." The Dragons
were deployed to the Western Pacific at the time.
VA-192 Corsair II landing on USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) circa 1975. The pilot must maintain
precise control over glideslope, airspeed, and lineup to ensure the tailhook touches down on
deck in an area of approximately twenty feet wide by thirty feet long. If the pilot does
everything correctly, he receives a grade of "OK, Three Wire."
An aviation squadron on deployment is like a family. You are thrown
together in close proximity for 6-8 months. You work together, play together,
take your meals together, etc. You establish friendships that last a lifetime.
A naval aviator's life is not all flying. Aircraft carriers,
especially, need a cadre of experienced aviators to fill the jobs necessary to maintain and run a floating airfield. I joined the USS Ranger, CV-61, in 1978 as a
catapult and arresting gear officer. While it was hard and physically demanding work - often the working days were 14-16 hours long or more - it was one of the most rewarding jobs I ever held.
For more on USS Ranger, click on above image.
After leaving the Ranger, I spent a short tour as an A7 instructor pilot in
VA-122 before reporting back to VA-192 in August, 1982. I was extremely
happy to be back in my old squadron. It was reminiscent of the old British
Army tradition where an officer or soldier could spend his entire life in one
The 1983-84 deployment embarked on the USS Ranger had its mark on history. The Ranger was sailing off the coasts of Iran and Saudi Arabia when the United
States Marine Corps lost over 200 marines killed by a truck bomb at their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Because Iran was suspected of supporting the truck bombing financially and with other
resources, the Ranger and her embarked air wing were extended in the North Arabian sea. Ranger would not make landfall until after 121 continuous days at sea, the longest period ever for a
conventionally powered aircraft carrier. I believe it was Ranger and her airwing's presence that kept the region quiet and stable.
In May, 1985, I left VA-192 and reported to USS Enterprise (CVN-65) as her Air Operations Officer. I and
my division were responsible for carrier air traffic control within 50 nautical miles of the ship, and coordinating air traffic control conflict resolution with international and
United States air traffic control agencies.
During Enterprise's 1986 deployment, she and her battle group sailed across the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean,
the North Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean Sea. Enterprise returned to California via the Straits of Gibraltar, the southern tip of Africa, and back through the Indian and Pacific
Oceans. On Enterprise's return trip, she and her escorts Arkansas and Truxtun maintained an average sustained speed of 25 knots, thanks to nuclear power.
After leaving Enterprise in 1987, I reported to the Navy's Pacific Missile Test
Center, Point Mugu, CA, where I had the opportunity to fly my old friend the Corsair II. It was a sad day in September, 1989, when I flew my last flight in the
Corsair. When I retired a week later, my logbook recorded over 3,600 accident free flight hours, over 1,600 in the Corsair. I made over 330 carrier arrested
landings on USS Lexington (CVT-16), USS Coral Sea (CV-43), USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), USS Oriskany (CVA-34), and USS Ranger (CV-61).
It was fun while it lasted.
Served Sept. 5, 1969 to Oct. 1, 1989