After graduating from pilot training in 1965, Jim entered combat crew training. Laughing, he tells the embarrassing story of one of his most memorable experiences there. On one of his early solo flights in the F-105, he landed long and hot (way too far down the runway, way too fast.) He couldn't get stopped in time, and took out the barrier at the end of the runway, causing damage to the plane. As if that wasn't bad enough, who showed up to escort him off the runway? None other than General Everest, a.k.a. "Speedy Pete." General Everest was the wing commander at the 105 combat crew training, a well-known test pilot, and famous for being one of the first people to break the sound barrier. Jim chuckles at the humiliation of having Speedy Pete show up in his little staff car to drive him in after his collision with the barrier.
Another time, Jim was forced to choose life or death in an instant. He was flying a single seat F-105 in a fingertip formation, following a well-respected Air Force captain. The captain, flying in the first position, led them through Death Valley flying extremely low. Jim says they were low enough (about 20-30 feet off the ground) to make rooster tails in the sand. Suddenly, the lead turned sharply, and because they were so low, they were forced to break formation or crash into each other. They broke formation. Technically, because it was drilled into them during training never to break formation, they should have crashed. Back at the base, the pilots were upset and asked the captain why in the world he had done that. The captain replied, "I just wanted to see what you would do." Jim chuckles at the memory, saying, "I guess we did the right thing!"
I am looking forward to learning more as I continue listening to his recorded memories. If you would like to receive updates from this blog as they are posted, just enter your e-mail address in the "follow by email" box on the right.