It’s really fun to watch Heritage Flights because everybody at the airshow stops.
When my dad was doing it before I had joined the team, I supported a couple airshows with him as kind of his ground guy. And at first I’d watch the Heritage Flight, after getting him launched. Then one day, I just decided to turn around and watch the crowd. And it was absolutely amazing to see as the Heritage Flight is doing its first pass, nobody is paying attention. They’re all talking, they’re eating their hot dogs, they’re playing with the kids. They’re just having fun waiting for the next act. And as soon as that Heritage Flight starts going by, they just stop and they look. It’s like somebody started to play the national anthem. It was unbelievable. Everybody’s head turned, they watched through the whole thing. And there’s a look of reverence on most of their faces. Most people get it.
At the time it was the P-51 flying with an F-15. And there was just this understanding that the greatest generation still lives today embodied in those men and women who are currently serving our country in uniform.
Have you flown both of those aircraft?
I flew the F-15E and I flew the A-10. So now I’m flying a P-51. And with the F-15 and P-51, it’s the same sort of thing I was describing in the A-10 and A-1. In the A-1, the flight harmonics are almost exactly the same as in the A-10. And the flight harmonics in the P-51 are almost exactly the same as in the F-15.
What do you mean by flight harmonics?
Flight harmonics are the balance of the stick to how the aircraft performs. So when you push the stick left to roll the aircraft, the feel in the P-51 is exactly like the feel in the F-15. The F-15 goes outside the flight envelope of the P-51, but within its flight envelope, the P-51 feels like an F-15.
The first time I got in the P-51, I got in the back seat of my dad’s plane—it has a little stick in the back—and I could fly it in formation absolutely perfectly because it felt just like an F-15. The same as the Skyraider. It feels exactly the same as an A-10. So the first time I flew both of those airplanes, I had hundreds of hours of essentially having flown them before.
What does it feel like to fire the A-10’s gun?
One of the things I loved most about the A-10 is that on almost every sortie in the training environment, you get 200 rounds of bullets you get to shoot. So when people ask me if I miss flying the A-10, I go Well, I don’t really miss flying the A-10, what I miss is shooting the gun.