Soul of the Skyraider
A U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation pilot describes what it’s like to fly three generations of ground attack aircraft.
- By Linda Shiner
- AirSpaceMag.com, August 14, 2012
Courtesy Greg Anders
(Page 2 of 6)
[laughter] No, but you are definitely looking at the left side of the runway, thinking, “I don’t want to be there.” So the whole focus is I’m going to NOT get off the centerline. At the same time, you have to bring the power up in order to get it to take off, so it’s just managing those two things. I’d flown an A-10, so I’d flown the soul of the Skyraider long before I’d flown the actual Skyraider.
Frankly, it was just a feeling of reverence. The Skyraider is the grandfather of the A-10, and the P-47 is the grandfather of the A-10, and I’ve flown that as well. There’s a bloodline that runs from the P-47 through the A-1 straight to the A-10. They’re all very similar in feel. It’s pretty interesting.
Is the P-47 in your museum?
No, it’s in the Flying Heritage Collection, which is [Microsoft co-founder] Paul Allen’s museum. In fact, I just flew it yesterday. It’s the P-47 Thunderbolt, remember, and the A-10 is the Thunderbolt II. So I’m pretty sure I’m the only P-47, A-1, A-10 pilot. There’s only one other P-47 – A-10 pilot, a buddy of mine, Charlie Hainline. Charlie flies the P-47 pretty regularly with the Lone Star Flight Museum, down in Galveston, Texas, and he does the Heritage Flight with the P-47 all the time.
What’s it like to be the son of an Apollo astronaut? I bet a lot of people have asked you that question.
[laughter] Well, It’s a privilege and a burden at the same time. It’s an interesting place to be, especially when you go into the Air Force. I wasn’t trying to repeat or refill his shoes, but at the same time in the Air Force, everybody knew who my dad was. And so living up to the standards can put some pressure, but I wasn’t so much into what my dad did, which was in the test pilot world, I was more of a combat-oriented aviator. So I just took a different route, but similar enough that there was always a bit of pressure on me.
How old were you when your dad flew the Apollo 8 mission?
I was six years old when he flew. When you’re six years old and you’re living in El Lago, Texas, the limited perspective of a six-year-old leads you to think that everybody’s dad is an astronaut. So when he flew to the moon, we just thought, “That’s what dad does.” [laughter] Then we moved to D.C., and I was kinda surprised that people were coming up to me all the time, saying “You’re dad’s the astronaut?” It took me moving away from Texas to realize “Wow, that was pretty cool.”
Did you inherit flying skills?
There’s an old fighter pilot saying, “If you don’t know who the best pilot in the room is, it isn’t you.” I don’t consider myself a truly natural pilot. I was teaching in the F-15E for several years, and I consider myself to be a very good pilot, but I’m a pilot who had to learn to be a good pilot. And I’ve met some natural pilots who were just unbelievable—people who came from non-flying backgrounds who were virtuosos as soon as they touched the airframe. I am not one of those people. I have to practice and learn. I’m good, but I have to keep training and respect the fact that I can always learn how to fly better.
How did you get to be a warbird pilot flying at airshows?
I was very privileged to fly in the Air Force for 23 years. And in those 23 years, I had the opportunity to come off the bench during one of our big games and play on the field—Operation Iraqi Freedom. No one really wants to go to war, but at the same time, you don’t want to be on the team and not get a chance to participate. I was honored to have had the opportunity to be in combat and to be able to serve my country in that way.