Ever Fly in a Jet Fighter?

Ever get to fly in an F-16 fighter? I have. Many of my friends have. Sometimes I forget that everyone doesn’t get to do this.    For the record. I got two rides.

incentive ride
1979- Me in the F-4.

While stationed at George AFB, morale was a little low. The 563rd Tactical Fighter Squadron commander popped in on us during weekend duty and asked what would improve morale. We all said “Rides!”. So two a day until everyone flew.  I went up with my pilot “Stitch”. Mount Shasta was weathered in so we hung a right and went to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley.  We engaged our wing man, who happened to be my neighbor, in a little air to air combat. I’m proud to say I got AIM-7 hits four out of six times.

The High Yo-yo. We were the attacking aircraft.

I asked Stitch to show me a High Speed Yo-yo.

He got our speed up and yanked us into a 4 G pull up. At the top we got a couple of negative G’s as we rolled.

While rocketing towards the desert floor Stitch came on the intercom using his best “Airliner Voice”.

“As you can see from our preflight briefing, we are now demonstrating the F-4 in a maximum performance dive. Note that your V.V.I is pegged out and your H.S.I ball is completely black. Uh Oh. Talked too long, have to pull her back.”

At that point, the stick was rammed into my belly and we started to pull out of the dive. As the G load came on I fought the tunnel vision and watched the G meter needle climb.2….3…..4….5 and a half.  At this point, the Angels started to sing to me. I got a real bad “Don’t give a shit” attitude. We’d been yanking and banking. This didn’t happen before. But then I looked down and saw the end of my disconnected G-suit hose waving at me like a snake. Uh oh. I didn’t pass out, but when he unloaded the G, my beef stew lunch came right up.

After stowing my stew in a bag and going to 100% oxygen, Stitch let me fly the jet. “To help get you right again”, he said. After some straight and level with not too much negative (because negative G’s are a bitch), he asked if I wanted to try a roll. “Sure”. I tried three times to roll the aircraft but each time I did a split S. Each time Stitch pulled us out and I tried again. On the third time, he told me I “Had the jet”. With the intercom on “Cold mic”, I could still hear him ralphing in the front seat. When he took the jet back I asked, “Hey did you go cold mic for what I went cold mic for?”  He said, “Roger that. We’ll throw the bags out at the end of the runway. No one will ever know”.

zza f-16 ride
My F-16 ride in ZZA.

In Zaragoza Spain, I got a ride in an F-16. I wanted to fly with my pilot “Mikey”. When he saw me all suited up he asked me how my flight was. I told him I’d been waiting for him to get back. “Oh shit”, he said “I have to debrief. Do you know how to read our maps?’  Yes, I did. He took me to the planning room. “Plan us a route through France on Low-Level One. Pick this lake as waypoint number one. Enter France here. Then give us the range coming out of France and then back to base.” He looked at me. “Got it?”, he asked. “Yes, sir”.

“Mikey” that day.

So I sat down with the computer and planned our mission. I had it just about done when he came walking back in munching a sandwich. “Looks good, print it”.

In the briefing room, we met the other crew. “Glenbo” was taking another crew chief up. He asked Mikey if he was going to brief because Glenbo hadn’t planned anything. Mikey said “Squadron rule is he who plans, briefs. Walt is doing the briefing”. Glenbo just stared.

Once Mikey got the engine started and we were ready to taxi out he said, “Do you know where the arm/dearm area is?”


“Take us there”. Oh boy! I got to taxi us out of the spot and down to the arm/dearm area.  Mikey had more in store.

“Do you know where the Hammerhead is?”


“Take us there”.

Now I’ve got the hang of it and put the jet on the runway. Once I lined us up, Mikey ran up the engine.

“It’s a good one. Brakes out”, he said and we began to roll. At 108 mph he said…

“Take us up Walt.”


“Yes you. Hurry up we’re running out of room”.

So very gingerly I brought the stick back and we left the ground.

“No. Like this.” Mikey said.

Mikey flipped the jet over and hung me in the seat. 30,000 feet, straight down!

He yanked us into the vertical and suddenly I was riding a hundred mile an hour roller coaster straight up. We had a blast rocketing through the French mountains. We did bombing passes at the range. He showed me the “Dutch Wiggle”. Then I got my 9G pin. Nine G’s was rough, I’m not kidding. But at least I didn’t throw up.

On the way back to ZZA, Mike said look over my right shoulder.  “HOLY SHIT!”, there was Glenbo sucked up so tight I could’ve reached out and touched him.

Tight like this. T-Birds eat your heart out.

F-16 ride cup
Buy your coffee cup.



1st Halloween
1983- He has always been a Star Wars fan.

Today is my son’s birthday. As his grandmother would say, “Pigs don’t get to be this old”. Yeah, it’s an old German farmer’s complement. It means they get to be breakfast before they get this old.

To pay the bills he went from busboy to manager at the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Then he crushed  Nursing School.
The smartest thing he has ever done was marry Abby Rae Brinkley.

Did I say “Bri”.  His mother named him. She wanted a name that had no nickname. He was two days old when his Godmother Cindy Mabry dubbed him “Bri”.

“SHHHHH….don’t tell his friends.”


Technically, the story starts two days before.  His due date was my Mom’s birthday the 7th. We had a $20 bet going that he would be born on her birthday. Well, Mom was betting on it. I took the over or under.

On the afternoon of the 6th Brian’s Mom had a backache that no amount of massage could make go away.  We were stationed at George AFB, California and I was all suited up for Swing Shift. Off to the ER.  After a brief exam, the doctor said, “You need to change, you’re going to be a Daddy.

Oh shit!

She was admitted and we timed contractions (back labor) all night. Promptly at midnight, she developed a fever and labor shut down.  Doc said I should go home and get some rest.  Since we were in base housing, it was a block away. In the morning, they kept her in the hospital for observation.  I spent the day furiously cleaning the house and waiting for the call.


Promptly at midnight of the 7th, labor cranked up again.  At 7am I got the call that if I wanted to be in on it I’d better get my ass to the hospital. I was there in a flash and we were back to timing contractions. Then the doctors, two of them began to be concerned.  Bri seemed to be too small for a full term delivery. We had been trying to tell them that for weeks. You see, I was under orders to Korea in May and they thought I was trying to get out of my orders. Yes, I was. But we weren’t lying about it.

Around 10am, it was decided to move her to Loma Linda University. I couldn’t ride with her in the ambulance.


As she zoomed off, I had to pull cash out of the bank (no ATM’s back then) and gas up the car.  It was 48.2 miles to Loma Linda and they had a 20 minute head start by the time I got on the freeway.

When I got there, I ran into the ER. Two crusty R.N’s were behind the counter.

“WHERE IS MY WIFE???”, I yelled.

“What is wrong with her?” asked Nurse Number One.

“SHE”S HAVING A BABY!! I blurted out, panting as I tried to catch my breath.

“Is she in your car?’, asked Nurse Number Two.


“Was she in the house when you left?”–Nurse Number Two.


“When was the last time you saw her?””—Nurse Number One.

“In the ambulance. She’s in an Air Force Ambulance”.

At this point the ambulance pulled up.

“THAT ONE!!!!”

After that it was smooth sailing. He was born happy and healthy. Well…maybe not all so smooth. I got to change his first diaper. The Nuclear one that all parents remember.  All cleaned up and changed, I picked him up from the changing table and took him back to his crib, basket, clear thing that the hospital puts new borns in…whatever. As I got him to about an inch from the cushion he wiggled.

I went “EWWW!” and jerked away. I dropped him. He opened his eyes and looked at me for the first time with that “What the Hell?” look he still gives to this day.

I always appreciated that he took the 7th off so I could win my bet.