Solo: My Adventures in the Air

Solo: My Adventures in the Air

Clyde Edgerton

Language: English

Pages: 288


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

When Clyde Edgerton was four years old, his mother took him to a local airport to see the airplanes. Eighteen years later, she would take him to the same airport to catch a plane to Texas for Air Force pilot training. She’d been his first passenger when he got his aviator’s license. She’d supported his decision to join the Air Force. All the same, she wished he’d kept up his piano lessons instead.

But Truma Edgerton’s only son had fallen in love with flying, and had fallen hard. His plan was to pilot the newest, sleekest, fastest aircraft available. The first time he soloed in a jet, he felt “a strange pride and power.” By then, the only access to the cockpits of fighter jets was via the war in Vietnam. So he spent a year flying combat reconnaissance over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and he won the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Back at home, he took up another passion—writing. By and by, he bought himself his own airplane, a Piper Super Cruiser that he named Annabelle. Now, thirty years after Vietnam, Clyde Edgerton looks back at his youthful passion for flying, at the joy he took in mastering it, at the exhilaration—and lingering anguish—of combat flight.

Solo is a story told with empathy and humor—and with searing honesty that will resonate with every pilot who remembers the first take off, the first landing, the first solo. For those of us who always choose the window seat, it’s a thrilling story to experience vicariously.

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mirror and see myself with my new helmet, sun visor lowered, wearing the oxygen mask now necessary in the T-37. What was I feeling? A strange pride and power. I saw myself as I thought I’d look to an observer, as I’d viewed fighter pilots all my life—as a hero, with all the attendant awards, recognitions, and love. While waiting on the taxiway to be cleared onto the runway for takeoff, Captain Dunning said, “Now, when you’re cleared on, taxi out and turn around at the end of the runway—as close

knew not to take chances. I headed for NKP and declared an emergency so that the fire trucks would be waiting in case aircraft damage caused landing problems. After landing, maintenance personnel found no sign of damage. On another occasion, within a few minutes of takeoff my instruments indicated a fire in the right engine. I immediately shut it down, flew back to the base, and landed from a spiraling-down approach used for single-engine landings. No sign of fire was found. The OV-10 flew

“you might want to advise the boys” (the rescue people). Nail 18 says, “One just made another pass on me—they’re still up here hosing” (shooting). Raven 27 (a U.S. pilot) [on a top secret mission . . . these were “forest rangers” stationed in northern Laos] calls and gives his position. Nail 18 says, “Got one in sight. He’s still circling me. Tallyho on the other one. They’re both down here now. He’s coming in on another pass now.” Cricket says, “We’ve got a Falcon Flight outbound to you”

backseat. Our normal minimum altitude, forty-five hundred feet above the ground, was no longer a factor. I was about to descend to treetop level if necessary. Any precautions at all, any acting on fear of being shot at or shot down, was extinguished by those forces above me, watching. Two human beings were counting on me to save their lives. I was their only hope right now. There was only one thing to do: to go down and try to find them, and when I found them, to try to understand the situation

that the request would be granted. Why should the Air Force do me any favors? But I was wrong. My request was granted. At Travis Air Force Base in California I collected a cash payment for my unused leave days. My days as an United States Air Force pilot were over. Before flying home to North Carolina, I detoured through New Jersey, where Johnny Hobbs (still a close friend then—and in 2005) was living and flying with the National Guard. We found a Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee concert in New

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