Long Ago, In a Galaxy far far away…

Over the last few months, since I visited the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio and sat in the cockpit of an F4 again, the Phantom II has been almost continually on my mind.
And as I thought about all those hours I sat in this cockpit so far away and long ago, I realized that I too, like the mythical Luke,  was a Skywalker.    F4 1972

This was further brought home to me in December when after a long, long  time my wife and I finally set up a Facebook page in order to see our grandsons’ photos.

One of the happy consequences of this was that I discovered a group devoted to the F4 Phantom II.  It was a group that loved this aircraft .   As one who had flown it so long ago I quickly joined in their discussions and viewed the many pictures people shared with great interest.   And in the course of time, I too shared some photos and videos.  And  something unexpected happened.

People thanked me for flying the F4.  Now people have thanked me for my service, but never for flying the F4.   Somewhat humbled by this I simply said I was blessed to have flown it.   

Flyers take joy in flight and flying is the ultimate, and somewhat mystical experience.   High Flight, a poem by John Magee,  captures the feeling:

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.”

Late in my time in the F4 I came to a special kind of flying:  Functional Check Flight.   udn35

The FCF crew takes planes that have been grounded for mechanical problems and after they are “fixed” takes them up and tries to break them again.  And as the poem above says, we did a hundred things you have not dreamed of.   We pulled G forces in excess to try to rip off the wings, we flew at the height of the envelope on the edge of space at over 50,000 feet and were as free as anyone can ever be.  We swooped and turned on a dime, as the adrenline and speed built.  We pushed the bird to more than Mach 2.  Then we landed.

“OK, she’s fit to fly,”we told the crew chief, and signed off the forms.

And yes I was blessed to be a “Skywalker.”

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About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in 13 TFS, 43 TFS, Alaska, Alaskan Air Command, American History, Anchorage, Arizona, Cambodia bombing 1973, F-4 Phantom II, F4 emergency, F4 Phantom II, F4 PhantomII, Fighter Aircraft, Fighter pilot lingo, Fighter pilot slang and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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