I got a call from my father a few weeks ago and he told me that Drew, the son of some good friends of theirs, had finally retired from the Air Force and wanted me to give him a call when I had a chance. I was intrigued because of all my parents friends children that became pilots, 5 or 6 of us by last count, a surprisingly big number, Drew was the only on the get into fighters. And Drew didn’t just fly any fighter, he flew what I would’ve chosen to fly if given the choice, the A-10 Warthog. I gave Drew a call and he told me that he was now living back in Minneapolis, flying for Delta, and bored out of his mind. I can see that. After twenty years in the Air Force, living all over the world and flying A-10 during a period that the Warthog REALLY came in handy, I imagine getting plunked back down in the suburbs and driving a bus was a bit of a shock. Drew told me that he had an 18 year old son that he wanted to spend more time with and two of the things they wanted to start doing together were skydiving and flying and was there any way I could help them? Skydiving and flying, yep, I can help with that. His plan was for both of them to come out to my skydiving school this spring and learn how to jump out of perfectly good airplanes but before he signed his son up for lessons on how drive said airplanes would I possibly have time to take the young lad for a short flight to see if he actually like it? Most certainly I said. Now you might ask why Drew, who was a decorated combat fighter pilot/airline bus driver needed me, a scruffy looking ferry pilot with questionable morels and personal hygiene to take his only son flying? It’s because like most fighter/airline pilots Drew hasn’t flown anything without a jet engine and a million dollars worth of avionics in years and in Drew’s case ever. So not only hasn’t he been checked out in anything smaller than the A-10 in years but like a lot of airline pilots, tiny airplanes scare him.
So Drew and his son came out and met me at the local airport where we all piled into a Cessna 172 I’d rented. I let Drew’s son, I’ll cal him Logan, because that’s his name, sit in the left seat and do all the flying. Logan did great. I didn’t have to get on the controls on takeoff and he was smooth and steady on the controls unlike a lot of non-pilots I’ve let take the controls over the years. We flew a few miles from the airport and I ran him through a series of stalls, slow flight, steep turns, wing overs, and some cloud busting. Basically I just wanted him to have fun and get comfortable in the air. Throughout the flight Drew sat quietly in the back taking pictures and generally being a proud papa. I’m sure he was a bit apprehensive about how Logan would react to being at the controls of a small plane. It’s every pilot’s nightmare that his son hates flying or it scares him to death because every pilot I know wants to pass the torch of flying to his children, especially his son, yes I’m a little sexist, sue me. All and all Logan did a great job and can’t wait to start flying lessons.
After the flight Drew took me out to lunch where we both had a couple of local Pale Ale’s, to calm the nerves don’t you know, and did what pilots do over a few drinks after flying, tell flying stories. Drew had his share of good material after 20 years in the A-10 and I countered with my own boring stories of ferry flying. When we were done Drew presented me with a 30mm shell casing from his beloved Warthog during the 2003 Iraq invasion. This was a great gift and it turns out a perfect addition to my military hardware collection because I just happen to have a 30mm cannon shell. How do I happen to have such a shell you might ask? It’s because back when I was a young lad in college I spent three summers as an intern working for Honeywell where we were building and testing experiential munitions such as the 300mm anti tank shells. My job was to actually build to rounds and then take them out and shoot them. That job was a blast. Get it? A blast? Anyway, here’s what they look like.