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America West Airlines
Epilogue ← you are here
SD Air&Space Museum
Chucker's Australia Air
Jeff Bacon Cartoons
We Remember (video)
Illustrateur Aéronautique Julien
My old F-4B, "Lucky 13."
Some limited prints are still available at
Pete Wenman's Aviation Art
I am proud to own the award winning original, oil on canvass, By The Dawn's Early Light of our aircraft and story that hung for the summer of 2011, in the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola.
"A Call To Serve" . . . . And I believe I did ...
Normally, I would have had to retire this year [Edit: As I wrote this in 2006], based upon the current mandatory retirement age for U.S. airline pilots. Indeed, my last flight would have been planned and celebrated with family, friends, and co-workers. But this will not be.
All of us who love flight will someday - inevitably and most assuredly - have their final, last flight ever. Some may know or suspect in advance. But most will not realize at the time, that this next flight will indeed be their final flight, ever ...
A couple of years ago, while flying an East Coast overnight pattern, I awaited the results of some medical tests - wondering if the results would in fact, make that my last flight.
Three days later, I learned that it was indeed, very likely my last flight... ever!
[Later edit: The diagnosis in late 2003 was an aggressive and advanced Stage
Rejoice those who anticipate flight.
Iconic Edifices - Old Hangars
I still visit NAS - now MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) - Miramar a few times every week. But my visits these days are primarily to their superbly equipped gym for a cardio-workout, or maybe to the Exchange or gas station.
Nevertheless, I always cast a smiling glance over toward my old flight line.
Those familiar neat rows of fighter aircraft are not quite visible from my vantage on the main road, but the massive and hulking aircraft hangers certainly are. As my eyes move from one old hangar to the next, I wistfully recall each one of the squadrons, and the many fine men they housed. I savor the many rich and vivid experiences I attach to each of those old aircraft hangers, during my many formative years there as a young fighter pilot.
NFWS (TOPGUN) moved away years ago. The "Fightertown" banner no longer adorns hanger #3. VF-151 moved elsewhere, and VF-1 was disestablished, as was VF-1485. The F-14's moved on too, and are now nearly all retired to the "bone-yard." They are being [Edit: Now have been] replaced with newer fighters, just as they, the F-14's replaced and retired the venerable F-4 so long ago. If they weren't sold for scrap, many of the flight decks I used to land on are now museums, like my favorite, the USS Midway. As have the old squadrons and aircraft scattered to the four winds and beyond, so too have many of my old friends and squadron mates.
But I'm fortunately still here. . . . even if replaced.
class picture with the standard Navy issue "combat" watch on my wrist there),
I am always wearing the same old stainless steel watch.
I bought the watch at the Subic Bay Exchange in 1971 for a very reasonable price.
And I still wear that same old watch today, everyday.
It has been with me through thick and thin!
It has become an old cherished friend. I feel naked without it.
And like me, it has needed some repairs and reconditioning too.
But we both keep on ticking – going on 41 years together, now... /Trivia]
Revived Memories, and Wonder
Often if I am lucky, I can look up and see a smart, tight formation of those very sleek F/A-18 fighters streaking inbound into that same Miramar "break" (the overhead landing pattern) as I used to fly so long ago, with their powerful twin turbines thundering overhead.
However, I find they now enter the Miramar break far slower than we used to do in the good old days. Disappointing, but maybe just as well.
I then find myself wondering if their sharp young fighter pilots are having nearly as much fun as I had at their age, over those very same runways, so many years ago.
I also can't help wondering if they are nearly as good as I was, for that fleetingly brief moment in my life when I was razor sharp and in my prime - when I was "the best fighter pilot in the world," and having the time of my life!
I also often wonder what might have been, had it not been for that freak Nebraska blizzard nearly half a century ago, which forever changed the course of my life. Though unplanned and unforeseen, it turned out to be the correct course, leading to the fantastic and continuing journey of my life...
Although I am now long grounded, my daughter continues on with our aviation legacy. She is a corporate pilot flying Challenger and Gulfstream business jet aircraft for a very well known and famous, Fortune 100 corporation. So I now fly vicariously with her. (She also once saved my life over 20 years ago, but that is another story for a different time.):
"Finis coronat opus"
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