Flight Training 1955-1956

Flight Training

Upon graduation from boot camp, I was ordered to Fire Control Technician, A School.  The school was near San Diego and I only moved a short distance.  While in A School I received orders to Naval Flight Training at Pensacola, Florida.  Other than the flight from boot camp to get my physical near Los Angeles, I had never been in an airplane.

Pre-Flight was quite rigorous.  Lots of physical training, marching and classroom work.  We had smokers while in pre-flight.  I boxed and won twice while in pre-flight.  If one boxed while in pre-flight you were given an overnight pass.  That meant that for one night you did not have to be in your bunk, in the barracks by 10:00 PM.  This was the main reason for my boxing in the smokers.

Upon completion of Pre-Flight, about twelve weeks, I was ordered to NAAS Whiting Field, Milton, Florida to begin primary flight training.  My flight instructor was first lieutenant, United States Marine Corps, Pete Kuntz.  Pete was a wonderful person in all respects.  I soloed in September 1955 after 21 flights in the SNJ (Air Force called it the T-6) Texan.  After soloing and completing precision and acrobatic stages, I was ordered to Saufley Field, close to Pensacola, for formation and night flying.  My formation instructor was Lieutenant “BZ” Bezore.  Another wonderful person who taught me formation flying.  BZ was not as mild mannered as was Pete Kuntz but then he had a harder and more dangerous job of teaching the art of flying wing tip to wing tip.  BZ and I met again on the U. S. S. Forrestal.  He was the officer in charge of the photo detachment of F-8 Crusaders.

After Saufley Field, I was ordered to Barin Field near Foley, Alabama for carrier qualification, bombing and gunnery.  Barin Field was nicknamed “Bloody Barin” because of the high accident rate associated with training to land on an aircraft carrier.  To give you an idea of the difficulty encountered in flying the pattern, pattern altitude was 150 feet above the ground and airspeed just above stall at 68 knots.  On the day of my arrival at Barin, a student was killed in an accident and my new roommate had answered a request for a blood donor.  

Carrier qualification, bombing and gunnery went smoothly.  

Next was Forrest Sherman Field, Pensacola for navigation, instrument flying and more night flying.  All of the flying was in the SNJ, Texan.  For instrument flying, we were placed in the back seat of the SNJ with a hood over our heads to prevent our seeing the outside world.  We were then expected to navigate and fly the airplane with reference only to our instruments.  After Sherman Field I was ordered to Main side Pensacola for celestial navigation.  We were placed in small rooms, affectionately called broom closets, and expected to conduct celestial navigation problems.  

Celestial was the last step prior to advanced flight training and the double solo bar on my left breast.  Advanced training was conducted in Texas either at Kingsville, Beeville and Cabaniss Fields.  I was ordered to Kingsville, Texas.  A Naval Auxiliary Air Station in the middle of the enormous King Ranch.  My first flight in the T-28 was on 17 April 1956.  After the T-28, I flew my first jet, the TV-2.  The TV-2 was the navy version of the Air Force F-80, Shooting Star with a back seat for instrument practice.  The F9F-5 was next.  A true fighter aircraft, it had flown in Korea and was the airplane that was flown against the bridges in the movie “The Bridges at Toki-Ri.”

 The Blue Angels were also flying the F9F-5 in 1956.  The F9F-5 had no back seat so that the first flight and every flight in the F9 was a solo flight.  The first flight was also a section takeoff on the wing of my instructor.  The F9F-5 was flown with the canopy open on takeoff and landings as was the practice of all navy aircraft of that era.  This, of course, was because of the requirement to get out of the airplane if it went into the water while operating around the ship.  The reason I mention the open canopy is because opening the canopy on any airplane at 150 to 180 knots while preparing to land is always a thrill.  On 14 August I flew my last training flight.  

I was designated a Naval Aviator and commissioned an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve on 16 August 1956 at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Upon completion of flight training I was ordered back to NAAS Whiting Field as an instructor in the T-28.