I met Pat in 1977 when we were both stationed at George AFB. We became friends and then he became my flight instructor. he was one hell of a pilot.
A pilot came out to fly Pat’s F-4 Phantom II.
Pilot: “How’s the jet fly, Chief?”
Pat: “You get the speed up and then pull back on the stick. Somebody should have mentioned that to you by now”
Dry Nebraskan humor.
We would roam the Mojave Desert with Warriors and Arrows.
Pat was working mid-shift and was trying to build his hours towards the instructor license. On Sundays, he’d pick me up and we’d go flying. Anywhere. Some where along the line he’d give me the airplane and nap. On day, I asked to teach me how to land if I had to. He did. We were , no….I was doing touch and goes on Rabbit Dry Lake. We were in a Piper Arrow. On one pass, I put it down and throttled up for the touch and go. The plane felt “loose”. Pat had retracted the landing gear on me. When I noticed, he looked over and said, “This is what we call low level in Nebraska”. I yanked the stick back and said, “This is what we call max climb in California”.
On one pass I just crested the ridge of the dry lake at an altitude of about 50 feet just as a six pack of dirt bikers crested from the other side. I didn’t hit them but they fell like bowling pins. Pat casually turned to me and said , “Don’t land”.
Pat got his instructor’s license and much more. He wound up becoming an airline pilot. He also served in the Air Force Reserve as Loadmaster. On one trip they were hauling some General around in a C-141. Tsgt Huey took the controls while the flight crew went potty and grabbed something to eat. That’s when the General popped his head into the cockpit to find an enlisted guy flying the aircraft, alone. He quietly brought this odd fact up with aircraft commander. Munching a sandwich the Major said,
“Relax General. Pat has more flying hours than you, me and Larry combined,”
Back then I was an expert on identifying military aircraft from any era. Pat patiently taught me about civilian aircraft. The difference between a Warrior and an Arrow. The difference between a 707 and a DC-9.
How cool is that. He offered me a free ride if Fifi ever came to Vegas. Maybe at shot at the controls. Knowing Pat, I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not.
Then Pat died suddenly of a heart attack.
I miss my dear friend. We had just connected after a couple decades of being out of touch when he died. I miss him and yes, this is a homage to the best pilot I have ever known.