My First Time- page 5 | History | Air & Space Magazine
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My First Time

Aerospace celebrities talk about the flights that changed their lives.

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SEAN D. TUCKER

Airshow superstar

I was 12 years old. It was 5:30 in the morning at Hawthorne Airport in California. My father was flying to Fresno and he had an instructor with him. He was learning to fly instruments. He was departing in the dark, taking off and rolling down the runway, and I was scared to death. At 1,000 feet we went into overcast. At 3,000 feet he breaks out of the overcast and the sun was just coming up over the San Gabriel Mountains. And at that moment I knew there was a God.

 

SERGEI SIKORSKY

Aerospace executive; son of pioneering aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky

I was probably nine or ten years of age. It was in Stratford, Connecticut. I was sort of seated on my father’s knee in the copilot’s seat of an S-38, a twin-engine amphibian. I remember that we did a brief flight. Oh, it was great. The airplane taxied into the water from the seaplane ramp that still survives—50 years later it’s still at the mouth of the Housatonic River. The [Sikorsky] plant is half a mile up-river. I remember that as the airplane taxied down the ramp into the water, the water kept coming up higher and higher, eventually ending about six to eight inches below the window. But there was absolute calm in the cockpit so I figured everything was under control. Our chief test pilot at that time, he was in the left seat, he opened up the throttles, and for about a few seconds I couldn’t see anything out of the windshield because the propeller tips were whipping up such a spray. Suddenly we were on the step and everything cleared off like magic. And maybe two or three brief seconds after that we were airborne. I remember seeing the horizon expanding miraculously.

LT. COL. MARTHA MCSALLY, USAF

First U.S. woman to fly fighters in combat

I was a kid flying down to Miami and I was airsick and it was miserable. I had my head in a bag the whole trip. If anybody told me I was going to be a fighter pilot I would have laughed. I felt so bad.

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