Forty-Seven Years in Aviation -- A Memoir: Chapter 1 -- From the Beginning through 1954
The T-33 was a stretched, two-seat version of the Lockheed F-80 "Shooting Star," a combat veteran of the Korean War. Known more familiarly as the "T-Bird," the T-33 was well established in its role as a trainer and we knew some of us would get to fly it in the next year or so. Nothing more was said about it, but at the conclusion of his daily briefing the next morning, our "mother hen" lieutenant announced that the T-Bird had been flown in to provide familiarization flights for ROTC cadets and that several of us (yours truly included) had been selected for rides. This was a complete surprise; there had been no competitions, no interviews or selection processes that justified such a special reward -- and I was not about to question the selections. We were given a short briefing on the oxygen system and the ejection seat, then one at a time we were strapped into the back seat of the T-Bird and away we went. That 30-minute ride was exhilarating, to say the least. The pilot demonstrated several aerobatic maneuvers to which my stomach -- which had never been upside down in an airplane or moved that fast or pulled any Gs -- registered a mild protest. That ride was an eye-opener and a great introduction to high-performance flying but, as it turned out, I had to wait 14 years to check out in the T-33; as far as I was concerned that was a better-late-than-never event. More about the T-Bird in a later chapter. Our summer camp at Turner AFB ended with a formal parade by the entire cadet complement. There was no shortage of brass as we passed in review; some of the brass was in a band, the rest was watching us from the reviewing stand. We must have done a passable job ... they didn't tell us to go back and do it again. When the summer camp of 1953 came to an end, I was one step closer to flight training and my objectives were clear: Graduate with the OSU class of 1954, accept a commission as a "brown bar" (2nd lieutenant) in the Air Force, get married and begin my life as an aviator.
[Continued with Chapter 2.]