I was very lucky to have been able to fly the F-4 Phantom for five years in the United States Air Force from 1971 – 1976, including three years teaching men to fly the F-4 while an instructor at George Air Force Base, California. I loved flying the Phantom. There is something very special about flying a supersonic jet fighter that is hard to put into words. No matter how eloquent the speaker may be, words just cannot describe the out of this world experience of flying a fighter.
Video, however, is more than a picture worth a 1,000 words. Below I am linking to two videos that give the non-fighter pilot viewer a true-life glimpse into what best described in the poem “High Flight.”
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.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue.
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.
The above sonnet was written by John Gillespie Magee, an American pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on 11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick, England.
Flying the A-10 Warthog
Flying the F-16 Falcon
The second video shows F-16 Falcons from the 35th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan, Korea participating in Red Flag exercises in Alaska in 2014. This is my old squadron from Korat Air Base, Thailand (1972) and Kunsan Air Base, Korea (1973). We were the Panthers (see the picture on the squadron patch at the top of this page), but now the squadron’s nickname is Pantons. According to the Urban Dictionary “panton” means:
Noun or adjective – Some one who is full throttle, to push it up, or lights their hair on fire. Also a good dude; a current or former member of the technically, tactically, strategically, aesthetically, and especially socially superior fighter squadron.
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