Navy Flight Training

(Updated January 23rd, 2021)

Primary Ground and Flight Training
NAS Pensacola, Florida

Mary and I drove to Pensacola sometime in October 1963.  Mary was about six months pregnant with our first child, Heather.
Due to a backlog of students waiting for Pre-Flight Training, we had plenty of time to get settled.

Bo in front of the house on Frisco Road

We found a little house on Frisco Road.  Mary and I agree that this is the house. Except, there was no garage back then.  I recently was in Pensacola and talked to a neighbor who told me that the garage had been added in the 1970s. It had no yard which was good because I wouldn't have had time to keep it up once ground school and Primary Flight training started.  It had an oil heater with a grate in a hall between the living room and the bedroom.   Mary would stand over it drinking her coffee on cold mornings in her robe allowing the rising heat to keep her warm. What it lacked in amenities, it made up for in convenience. Frisco Road was in a sub division called Warrington. It was located to the upper left of Bayou Chico on the map below. It was close to Route 98 which led to Navy Blvd and NAS Pensacola.

Route 98 also provided a mostly direct route to the small city of Pensacola. From there, we could take the Pensacola Bay Bridge to Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach.  From Pensacola Beach, we could drive along Santa Rosa Island to Fort Pickens.  Fort Pickens was directly across Pensacola Bay from NAS Pensacola.

       Pensacola Beach is spectacular. It has perfectly white sand.      The weather and water temperature was still warm enough in October so we were able to spend some time on the beach while waiting for Pre-Flight to start.  When the weather got a bit cooler, Pensacola Beach and especially the beaches of Santa Rosa Island were great for taking walks.

Fort Pickens was constructed in 1834 as part of President Madison's initiative to renovate all US forts after the War of 1812. The drive along Santa Rosa Island to Fort Pickens was beautiful. It was also fun to walk around the old fort. It was great landmark for landing on one of the runways at NAS Pensacola.

Sometime in late October, after what seemed a very long delay, it was finally time for me to start Pre-Flight Ground Training. The drive down Navy Blvd toward the NAS Pensacola main gate was an exciting one.  I had so much anticipation about what was about to come.

Pre-Flight training lasted about six weeks. In addition to academic classes, it involved physical training including the required satisfactory completion of the obstacle course.  There also was intensive water training including learning how to float for a long period using anti-drowning techniques, parachute drag training, water entry from height (jumping off a 12'ft tower into the pool; my least favorite activity), and the Dilbert Dunker, of course!.

l left the house early before breakfast in order to get to the base in time for morning physical training. After PT, we went to the mess hall for breakfast.

About three times a week, we would run from the BOQ out to the obstacle course, run the course a few times, and then run back to the BOQ.

The bachelors lived in the BOQ. I think us married guys may have had a locker room with showers where we kept our khakis, fatigues, our PT gear, and swim trunks. But, I'm not sure about that.

Intensive water training including learning how to float for a long period using anti-drowning techniques, parachute drag training, water entry from height by jumping off a 12'ft tower into the pool (my least favorite activity).

Dilbert Dunker Training

Strapped in to a simulated cockpit

Down the ramp and flip inverted in the water

Remain calm, unstrap, let the bubbles clear, and swim out

Ditching at Sea

Helo Dunker Training

Dilbert Dunker training was instituted to train pilots how to escape the cockpit after a ditching at sea from prop fighter type aircraft (with no ejection set). It was relevant training in the 1940s and 1950s.  But it was no longer applicable to jet aircraft as nobody would try to ditch a jet when you could use the ejection seat to get out of the aircraft even at low altitude.  But the Dilbert Dunker was retained as a part of the water survival training because it was a challenge and a good indicator of the motivation of the student pilot.  It was  a "right of passage"!  It remained a part of periodic water survival training even for carrier jet pilots at least through the 1980s. After you had successfully done it a few times, it actually became fun. In the 1980s, the Navy introduced ditching training for a downed helicopter. It was a much more likely event.  I had to do this Helo Dunker training a couple of times. It was no fun at all!!

Academic Training

Academic training consisted of aerodynamics, airtcraft systems, navigation, and cockpit simulator training. I did extremely well in the academic courses for two reasons; One, my experience with the very high academic standards at Cornell and two, I was married so did not spend as much time at Trader Jon's (a famous Navy pilot bar in Pensacola).

Trader Jon's was  a bar in downtown Pensacola on South Palfox Street which was a popular watering hole for Navy pilots from the 1950s through 2003. It was closed in 1998 when the original owner died but was temporarily reopened from 2000-2003.

I did have one particularly challenging event during ground training at Pre-Flight:  I had been experiencing increasing pain in my left cheek for about a week. It turned out that I had a wisdom tooth that was infected. On the morning of my three hour Navigation final, I was in so much pain that I went to the dentist. They did a double extraction of my upper and lower wisdom teeth on the left side of my mouth.  I still took my Navigation final that afternoon under the influence of pain killers. I must have passed it.

I successfully completed Primary Flight Ground Training at NAS Pensacola sometime about the middle of November.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, 1963

Even though politics wasn't the usual topic of discussion in Primary Flight Training at Saufley Field, JFK's assassination was a shock to most of us. I think JFK's handling of the Cuban Missile crisis in 1961 gave most of us the feeling that the country was in pretty good hands with him at the helm.  I for one, had no idea what kind of job the new President, Lyndon Johnson, would do as Commander in Chief of the military.  It wouldn't affect us anyway while we were in flight training. However, Vietnam was just over the horizon for most of us!

Jeff Lapic: I'm not sure of the timing, but Jeff will let me know when he reads this.  Jeff was going through Pre Flight about the same time as me.  But, I think it's likely that he started before me because he was commissioned in June so was three months senior to me.  I don't know where he was living but I suspect the BOQ (Bachelor Officers Quarters) on the base. I do know that he had his Triumph Spitfire with him.

I'm not sure of the color. But, I think it was blue. Well, one evening after a few drinks (he was solo), he lost control of the Spitfire. I think he was coming back from Pensacola Beach and for some reason, took the exit ramp off Route 98 in Gulf Breeze.
The police arrived and he was arrested for DWI. DWI was a big deal because if you are convicted of a DWI, the Navy will drop you from the flight program. So Jeff decided to plead 'Nolo Contendere'.  Nolo Contendere (I do not wish to contend or no contest). A no contest plea is technically not a guilty plea. So, if the court accepted the Nolo Contendere plea, Jeff could avoid being dropped from the program.

Jeff was scheduled for court in Gulf Breeze on a Saturday. I went with him to court to vouch for him. We both wore suits to impress the judge. Almost everyone else at court that Saturday morning wore T shirts and jeans or shorts and flip flops. Jeff asked the lady at the scheduling table when his case was scheduled? She replied, "well we normally leave the most serious cases toward the end. You are last" ! We had to wait for the petty theft cases, then the robbery cases, and even the assault cases. Sometime in the afternoon, the judge accepted Jeff's Nolo Contendere plea!

Unfortunately, Jeff ended up dropping out of the program during T 34 Primary Flight Training at VT-1 at Saufley Field. He did great at ground school at Pensacola and was doing well in the flight portion at Saufley Field except that he got air sick on every flight. So, he DOR ed (Dropped On Request). He received orders to the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and made the three (all nuclear) ship cruise around the world. After that, Jeff was assigned as the Aide and Flag Lieutenant for the Admiral at Commander Middle Eastern Forces (COMMIDEASTFOR) and was stationed in Bahrain. Following that tour, Jeff left the Navy and went to the Duke Law School where he did exceptionally well.

Social Life in Pensacola: Except for going out to Pensacola Beach and and the beach and Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island as often as possible, , Mary and I didn't have much of a social life at Pensacola. We were actually quite poor. An Ensign's pay was not overly generous.  We did go to the Officer's Club on most Friday nights to be with our new friends and take advantage of the free popcorn and cheap beer.  We also liked to go to a place called Al's Castle Bar(1500 West Government Street) as often as we could afford it. It was just a short drive toward Pensacola.

The best thing about Al's Castle Bar wasn't that it was a bar. They served the best deli sandwiches in Pensacola. My favorite was the pastrami on rye!

Primary Flight Training at VT-1 (Training Squadron One) in the T-34 at NAAF Saufley Field:
(NAAF means Navy Auxiliary Air Field)

Naval Auxiliary Airfield (NAAF) Saufley was located north of NAS Pensacola.  It had four runways, much more complicated than the single runway I had flown from at Cornell during the Flight Indoctrination Program'. But, I was ready for it!

Our house on Frisco Road was about the same distance from Saufley Field as it was from NAS Pensacola. Very convenient. 

The aircraft used for Primary Flight Training at that time was the Beec
hcraft T 34B Mentor. the T-34B Mentor was replaced later by the T-34C Torbo-Mentor.

The hangar on the right side of the image to the right was the home of VT-1. We did our PT outside the hangar every morning before ground school or flying. My airborne office was in the front seat of the T34 above.

There was a paper mill to the north of Saufley Field. When the wind was from the north, we were treated to the smell of the paper mill during PT. Some folks found the smell offensive, But, I liked it. Just like I learned to love the smell of the Maxwell Coffee facility in Jacksonville or the smell of spilled hydraulic fluid or JP5 on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

I probably checked in to VT-1 (Training Squadron One) about the end of November. Mary was about eight months pregnant at this point. There was a few weeks of ground school where we studied the T-34's engine, aircraft systems, and emergency procedures.  We also had simulator training  that was a cockpit simulator so we could become familiar with the instrument and switch positions.  You had to complete the academics and pass a blindfold cockpit check before you could start the flight syllabus.

The Flight Syllabus

I flew my first instructional flight on December 10th. We had along break (due to the holidays I guess) before I flew my second flight on January 7th, 1964.

In the meantime, my first daughter, Heather Scott Smith was born in the NAS Pensacola hospital on January 3rd, 1964:

I have to admit that I wasn't the best of husbands in the process.  I dropped Mary off at the hospital and went off with some of my flight school buddies to Trader Jon's to celebrate my first child with a few beers. 

This was not unusual conduct in those days. Mary told me that the labor and delivery ward at the hospital was crowded and they put her gurney (with her on it) in a closet while waiting for space. I got back from Trader Jon's to welcome Heather into the world.  Fortunately, Heather was healthy and Mary was very understanding, sort of.  Mary and Heather  stayed in the  hospital for a few days before coming home to Frisco Road. They kept new mothers and their babies in the hospital longer in those days than now.

With baby and mother safely back home, I got back to business at VT-1 confident that the dirty cloth diapers would be picked up and replaced by clean ones by the diaper service company.  Now, both Mary and baby Heather would be standing over the heater grate when I left for Saufley Field in the morning.

Resuming my flight syllabus:
We were issued orange cotton flight suits in those days (not the fire retardant NOMEX ones in use today). One advantage to cotton was that it was cooler than nomex.

At VT-1, we were issued used flight suits. I guess that was because the drop out rate was large enough not to warrant new flight suits for the students.

I got a very pleasant surprise when I was issued my two flight suits. When I unzipped the left upper slanted pocket in one of the suits, I found a set of Navy wings with a note that read, "Good luck with flight training". What a thoughtful thing for someone to do!

We were issued a leather flight jacket and a anti gravity suit (G suit). We put on a orange flotation jacket (Mae West) for over water flights.  Our parachute was waiting for us in the aircraft cockpit.

The VT-1 flight syllabus consisted of twenty three scheduled flights.  Of the twenty three, only five were solo flights. I completed the syllabus in twenty four flights.  I repeated three of the syllabus flights possibly because the initial flight in each occasion was cut short due to an aircraft problem or weather. In compensation, my instructor wrote of two syllabus flights in one longer than usual flights (2.4 hours instead of the usual 1.3-1.5 hours).
The syllabus was in two parts:

1. PS Flights- There were 13 PS flights. All of these flights were flown in VFR (Visual Flight Rules) conditions. These were basic indoctrination flights involving take off, basic flight maneuvers, stall practice and acrobatics. We learned how to execute aileron rolls, loops, Cuban eights, and barrel rolls. There was lots of touch and go landing practice. The first 11 flights were with an instructor. PC 12 was a safe for solo check flight. and PS-13 was our first solo flight. My first solo flight was on January 27th, 1964.

It turns out that both tie cutting and ribbon cutting are popular ways to celebrate an accomplishment.

I was unable to find an image on Google of the Naval Aviation tradition of cutting the tie of a Primary Flight Training student at the Officers Club bar.

I flew my first T 34 solo flight on the afternoon of January 27th, 1964. My service dress khaki black  tie was cut by Lt Holloway who had been my instructor for all of my PS syllabus flights. It was my responsibility to buy a round at the club. I don't remember how many 1st solo ties were cut that evening. Probably many rounds were bought.
Bo VT-1 T-34A Solo Picture- Official US Navy Image

2. PCN Flights- There were 10 PCN flights. These flights involved navigation but were all VFR flights. I had a variety of instructors for the PCN flights. Six of the flights were with an instructor; four were solo.

I completed Primary Flight Training on February 7th, 1964. I had flown only 32 flight hours only 6.7 of which were 1st pilot hours.

In those days all navy pilots began their student flying in the T 34 with  VT-1. From there, students were assigned to basic jet, basic prop, multi engine prop, or helo training.  You got your choice depending on your class standing and the needs of the Navy.  My class standing was high enough to get my first choice, Basic Jet Training at Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi. Those who were eventually bound to fly the A1A Skyraider went across town to NAS Whiting Field to fly the T 28 Trojan.  Pilots bound to fly the S2F or P2/P3 went to NAS Corpus Christie, Texas.  I think the helo pilots went back to NAS Pensacola for helo training but Im not sure.

I had also decided that eventually wanted to be a light attack jet pilot flying the A4 Sky Hawk.  Although I admired fighter pilots who were flying either the F 8 Crusader or the F 4 Phantom, I thought the light attack mission was more interesting.

Mary, Heather, and I had to hang around Pensacola for almost a month because there was another training backlog at Meridian. I flew four flights in the NAS Saufley station Beechcraft to maintain my flight pay in March before driving up to Meridian.

Primary Flight Training Today

Saufley Field is now closed. The T- 34s and T-28s are gone.

Navy Basic Training training is now conducted at NAS Whiting Field in a new aircraft. The T-34C (on the left) has been replaced by the T-6B Texan II.

Navy Basic Flight and Advanced Helo Training are coordinated by Training Wing Five at Whiting.

The Beechcraft T-6B Texan II

Basic Jet Training

NAS Meridian, Mississippi

To get to Merdian, we drove west from Pensacola to Mobile, Alabama and then north to Meridian.

We lived in a two bedroom one bath brick house similar to this one. It was located in a very 'country' neighborhood. Our next door neighbors had an outhouse in their back yard they had brought from their farm when they moved to the city. The old couple who lived there were very nice. The wife babysat for Heather while Mary and I were celebrating at the Meridian O'Club on an occasional Friday night.
More on the next door babysitter.  When she came to the house, she was dressed in a nurse's uniform, very white and pressed which also included a nurse's cap. After the shock of seeing how she was dressed, we were shocked to see that she had her trusty shotgun with her. She assured us that she would protect Heather with her life.  We believed her and went on to the O'Club.  When we got back home, the house was dark.  We were very concerned. However when we entered the house, all was well.  There was our neighbor sitting in a chair in Heather's bedroom with her shot gun on her lap watching our daughter. She explained that the lights were out and that she didn't watch the TV because she didn't want to use our electricity.

Our neighbor on the other side was the manager of Weidmann's Restaurant.  She lived alone. One evening when she came home from work, she was concerned that someone was in her house. She suspected it was a black teenager who had washed her car in the driveway earlier in the week.  She asked me to check out the house. I didn't think there was much to her concern but I agreed. On entering the house, she was behind me with a hand gun. I didn't this "crazy lady" behind me with a gun so it asked her to give it to me. She did but then promptly went back to her car and got a shot gun out of the trunk. Geeez.  I checked the house, under the beds, and the closets. Nothing. I'm glad she didn't shoot me. She was a nice lady but she was honestly scared that a black teenager was there to do her harm.

Our neighborhood was white, armed, Baptist, racist, and capable of violent behavior. One day when I got back from the base, there was a woman tied to a chair in a nearby front yard. Her head was shaven. Some of the neighborhood women thought she was fooling around with their husbands.

On another occasion, we were having a party in our back yard.  We were cooking dogs and burgers on the grill and enjoying some beers with some of the other student pilots and their wives or girlfriends.  As the party progressed, a crowd began to gather around our backyard.  They were gathering to watch the sinners drinking in public. A few nights later, the minister from the local Baptist church came to our front door with Jimmy Handy (a traveling revival preacher with brown and white saddle shoes) and two deacons. Their mission, to invite the sinners to a steak dinner at the church; their best offer to save us sinners. The minister was actually a very nice man willing to engage in conversation.  Remembering my Philosophy of Religion course at Cornell, I posed numerous questions to him and we discussed the meaning of "grace". Mary enthusiastically joined the conversation. Jimmy, the revival minister, sat quietly while the two deacons squirmed in their chairs looking at their watches. They thought they were there for a "quick save" and would be out of there quickly so they could go home and get their bottle of bourbon out from under the sink and have a drink. They thought is was OK for them to sneak a drink of bourbon but NOT OK for us the drink a beer in public, our back yard. I've always disliked hypocrites!

Downtown Meridian


The Five Aces Club

Meridian was a city with great possibilities prevented from progressing by a few wealthy and powerful families that didn't wasnt to loose their position of power and influence. I hope that Meridian has rid itself of that limitation by now! Initially, Mary and I would go to downtown to have dinner at Weidmann's restaurant. The food was good and the decor was surprisingly cosmopolitan. The manager of Weidmann's was our other next door neighbor. I'll have a story later about her.  Just down the road from our house was the Five Aces Club. Despite being located in a dry Baptist culture, the Five Aces Club had it all; drinking, gambling, and strippers. They had paid off the sheriff.

My sister Barbara transferred from Alfred College in New York state to the University of Bridgeport.  Bridgeport, Connecticut is next to Long Island sound. Barbara continued in her History major. She transferred to be close to her fiancee, Joe Moore who was attending Trinity College, NYC.

NAS Meridian

NAS Meridian was the home of Training Wing One (Trawing One).  Trawing One was composed of two squadrons, the VT-7 Eagles and the VT-9 Tigers.

Both squadrons conducted basic jet training using the T-2A Buckeye aircraft.  I was assigned to VT-7.

NAS Meridian was built in Meridian due to the political patronange of Senator Stennis, Chaiman of the of the Armed Services Committee. It was built on marshy land which severely limited the runway layout. Also, the Mississippi weather was not conducive to efficient basic jet training.

We flew the T-2A Buckeye built by North American Aircraft.  It was not the most beautiful aircraft but it was simple and reliable. It was under powred having only one J-34 engine. It's strait wing design made it a very safe aircraft for basic jet training.

The T-2 Buckeye eventually was produced in three configurations; the T-2A with one J-34 engine, the T-2B with two J-34s, and eventually, the T-2C which had two J-85 engines (the same engine used in the US Air Force's T-38 jet trainer).  North American produced a  total of 529 Buckeyes at its Columbus, Ohio plant. T-2s were sold to both Venezuela and Greece. Greece still operates them. The last T-2C Navy training flight was in 2008. It was replaced by the McDonnald Douglas T-45 Goshawk.

The Basic Jet Training Syllabus

Ground Training- As with VT-1, there were a few weeks of ground school. We studied the T2-A's J-34 engine, aircraft systems including hydraulics and the oxygen and ejection systems, and emergency procedures. 

The aircraft simulator was more complex that the T-34 simulator but it was not simulator with motion. Again, we had to pass a blindfold cockpit check before you could start the flight syllabus.

There were two new types of ground training that came with the T2A jet; ejection seat training and the altitude chamber.

As we would be using oxygen while flying the T2 and be susceptible to a rapid decompression if we had a cabin pressure system failure, we were required to undergo training in an altitude chamber. We learned the valsalvo maneuver (clearing your ears). It also included taking your oxygen mask off an experiencing the symptoms of hypoxia.

We were also required to experience the sensation of being fired in an ejection seat. This consisted of getting strapped in the same seat that was in the aircraft and then initiating an ejection. It involved actually being fired up a set of rails to simulate the gravity (G) forces associated with an ejection.
This is an air force ejection seat trainer.
(no face curtain ejection handle)

Jet Flight Gear

We still wore the G suit.

But in a jet with an ejection seat, we wore an integrated  harness which had fittings at each shoulder and each hip for attaching the pilot to the ejection seat.

We wore a survival vest over the integrated harness.

Basic Jet Flight Training:

Me sitting on the canopy rail of the T2A Buckeye

Transition Phase- The transition phase consisted of 13 flights.  I flew my first flight on April 18th.  The first 11 flights were dual flights with the same instructor.  My instructor was Captain Whipple, a USAF Exchange pilot. Transition consisted of basic flight characteristics, stall characteristics, and lots of landing practice. I credit Captain Whipple for being a major factor in improving my approach to flying.  He told me that I was concerned with executing the procedures too carefully.  The airplane was flying me rather than the other way around. He said that if I wanted to fly the aircraft in some direction that I should just point the plane where I wanted to go and fly to it.  Under his guidance, I became a much more instinctive pilot.  I took command of the airplane and made it do what I wanted. The T-12 flight was a check flight flown with a different instructor. I passed with flying colors and flew my T-13 solo flight on May 5th.

Acrobatics- Ten flights; three dual instructional flights, six solo flights, and one check flight. I completed this phase on May 14th.

Basic instruments- Eleven flights; ten instructional flights and one check flight.  The first few flights consisted of learning to control the aircraft precisely by using the instruments (under a hood) executing what we lovingly referred to as "S" patterns; S1- Turning the aircraft to the left 360 degrees at 30 degrees angle of bank without loosing altitude and reversing the turn and turning another 360 degrees to the right, S2- Descending at a constant rate of descent for 1000ft and then climbing at a constant rate  of climb for 100 feet etc, and S3- Turn in one direction at 30 degrees angle of bank while descending at a constant rate of descent for 1000 feet etc etc. The last few flights consisted of executing departure patterns and instrument approaches on instruments only (under a hood). I successfully completed my check flight (BI-11) on June 11th, 1964.

Note: Aircraft carrier jet pilots must be excellent instrument pilots. Departures from the carrier, holding (marshal), and carrier instrument approaches must be precisely flown.

Radio Instruments- Six flights; Five instructional (dual) flights and one check flight. These flights consist of flying navigation flights using navigation aids such as TACAN and VF homing and executing instrument approaches at strange airports to a missed approach and returning to NAS Meridian (under the hood).  I successfully completed my check flight on June 22nd, 1964 (the day before my 23rd birthday).

The murder of the civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner took place on June 21st, 1964 in Philadelphia. Mississippi:

Philadelphia, Mississippi is 39 miles to the northwest of Meridian. The Navy attempted to continue training for a couple of weeks. I flew a couple of the Formation Phase flights and a few navigation flights before training stopped on July 10th. The FBI took over the the base to control the investigation into the murders from there. Teams of sailors were dispersed into the countryside in the vicinity of Philadelphia and eventually located the bodies.

Normally, the Formation Flying Phase of training is completed at Meridian and then students return to NAS Pensacola for the Carrier Landing Phase with VT-4.
In this case, we left early and completed the Formation Phase in Pensacola.

Note: Mary and I experienced some threatening situations that summer in Meridian.  After all, we were driving a 1963 VW Beetle with New Jersey license plates, a Cornell University sticker, and were in our early twenties. Its not hard to imagine that to some we appeared that we could be civil rights workers on summer break there in Mississippi to stir up trouble.  We had eggs thrown at our car and in one instance someone with a chain attacked the car in downtown Meridian. I guess they didn't notice that I had a blue Navy Officer DOD sticker on the windshield. Of course , some of the locals (young males) were not so happy about a bunch of young Navy student pilots dating some of the most desirable young ladies in Meridian.

Back to Pensacola

When the Navy decided to move us from Meridian to Pensacola to complete Formation Phase, we literally flew the aircraft there the next day. I walked into the house and gave Mary the news that I was flying to Pensacola the next day and that she would have to pack up our stuff and drive the VW and Heather to Pensacola on her own.  This happens too often to military families. The service member gets orders that have to be executed with little notice and the spouse has to move the family; sometimes including selling a house.   In this case. Mary had to terminate our lease, pack up our 1963 VW Bug with Heather in the back seat and drive to Pensacola. Fortunately, the "Soldiers and Sailors Act" allowed us to terminate our lease without a penalty.

Mary drove our VW south from Meridian through East Mobile, Alabama (a scary thing to do in those days) and then east to Pensacola; one of the many courageous accomplishments and acts of valor she had to perform as my Navy wife in spite of my dedicated albeit single minded pursuit of my Navy wings.

Mary puts it this way; "I vividly remember having to pack up and move after Bo flew to Pensacola; having to drive the VW (with Heather in a car seat in the back).
We drove south from Meridian to Mobile, then east to Pensacola; a personal and societal nightmare".

This time, we found a duplex apartment closer to the NAS Pensacola front gate. It was either on the peninsula between Gulf Beach Highway and Bayou Grande in an apartment complex on Navy Point called Eleanor Village. These apartments were in very poor shape. I guess they had air conditioning of some sort. I don't remember. I do remember that they had a lot of large roaches.

Heather was six months old.

We were happy to be back in Pensacola.  It was July, beach weather, and we were relieved to be free of the Mississippi race situation. Our friends from VT-7 had come with us and we had very good friends who were at Whiting Field flying the T-28.  Our friends at Whiting lived in base housing.  Their house was right on the water and we could actually collect pollution free oysters from their back yard and roast them or eat them raw on the spot.

I was in Pensacola to complete the Formation Phase and to train for and complete day landings on the USS Lexington (CVT-16).

Continuing Formation Phase Training

  My first flight at VT-4 was my second formation flight on July 18th.  I would complete 15 syllabus formation flights in July (two flights a day on five days) including my check flight (F-16X) on July 30th. Five of those flights were solo flights.  We learned and practiced flying the parade wing position, cruise, and combat cruise positions. Flying parade wing consisted of flying the correct bearing position by lining up the wing tip of the lead aircraft with the star on the fuselage. The parade  wing position was the closest with just a little wing tip clearance between the two aircraft. Once the instructor was satisfied that you could fly an acceptable parade position, we practiced moving from one wing to the other side using a cross under. Cruise position was flown on the same bearing line as the parade position but with a little more distance  between the aircraft which was used during maneuvering including acrobatics. The combat cruise position was further back about 45 to 60 degrees back and with lots of nose to tail clearance. This was used in maximum performance maneuvering. The final skill learned was how to rendezvous (join) with another aircraft from a distance. To accomplish this, the lead aircraft would fly a turn at about 30 degrees angle of bank and at a known airspeed (say 300 knots). To rendezvous, the wing man would maneuver inside the turn and match the leader's angle of bank.  As the wing man approached the lead, he made sure he was slightly below the lead and  performed a cross under steadying up on the opposite side of the lead. Flying in a two plane formation is called a section. We learned how to do this with a flight of four (division) with all the aircraft lined up on the opposite side of the lead in an echelon formation. After my F-16X check flight, I flew two more solo formation flights on July 31st, probably flights of four.

Aircraft Carrier Landing Qualification

Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP):

FCLP consisted of 10 flights (4 dual with an instructor) and 6 (solo). These flights were short in duration (most less than an hour). They consisted of a short flight to an auxiliary landing field which had an aircraft carrier deck painted on the runway, a Fresnel Lens (meatball) and an LSO (Landing Signal Officer) stationed next to the lens. We made repeated touch and go landings until we reached bingo fuel (enough fuel to return safely to NAS Pensacola) or the instructor (dual flights) or LSO (solo flights) considered that the objectives for that syllabus flight had been achieved. The objectives consisted of flying the correct AOA (angle of attack) related to airspeed, with proper aircraft attitude (nose position), and well controlled power to land in the landing area.  We also practiced responding to power calls from the LSO (flashing horizontal green lights) or to a call for a wave off (flashing vertical red lights). 
I successfully completed my CQ-10X check flight on August 14th and was ready to go to the Lexington for my first carrier landings.
At that point, I had only 100.3 total flight hours, 33.1 solo hours, 175 field landings, and 62 FCLPs in the T-2A aircraft!

 I flew out to the USS Lexington (CVT-16)
 in  T2A # 147484
on  August 17th, 1964.

completed 2 Touch and Go and  4 carrier
 arrested landings and flew back to
 NAS Pensacola.

 I was day carrier qualified for the first

Gunnery Pattern Phase:

We finished up at VT-4 with six flights (all dual) to familiarize us with the four plane air to air gunnery pattern flown against a tow aircraft. This was to give us a quick look at the pattern which we would fly with live ammo in Advanced Jet Training.

I completed Basic Jet Training in the T-2A Buckeye at NAS Pensacola on August 26th, 1964.  There were two locations for Advanced Jet Training; Kinsgville, Texas and Beeville, Texas. I was assigned to VT-21/VT-23 at NAS Kingsville, Texas.

In August 1964, we packed up and drove west from Pensacola, Florida to Kingsville, Texas for Advanced Jet Training

Trip to Duxbury

We made a trip to Duxbury to visit Mary's family sometime in 1964.  My logbook indicates that we most likely made the trip in late August after CQ in the t2 with in Pensacola and before we started advanced jet training in mid-September. I received the following picture on January 22nd, 2021 from my daughter Stacy documenting this visit.

Kingsville, Texas

Upon completion of VT-4 In late August, we packed up our 63 VW Bug and drove from Pensacola west to Mobile, through New Orleans, and into Texas to Corpus Christi

From Corpus Christi, we drove 41 miles southwest to Kingsville.

  The beautiful Padre Island Seashore is only
  a one hour drive from Kingsville. 

 We would enjoy several visits there.

 The vast King Ranch is just to the southwest of 
  Kingsville with its famous Texas Long Horns.

 We would do a lot of our flying over the King Ranch.

Mary, Heather (now 8 months old and crawling), and I arrived in Kingsville for Advanced Jet Training one year after I was commissioned an Ensign at Cornell. We found a nice two bedroom house that was a significant improvement from the Eleanor Village apartment we had in Pensacola during my VT-4 training.

Heather took her first steps from the front door of our house in Kingsville in December, 1964

 The Kingsville Crud- Unfortunately, almost everybody new to Kingsville had an initial problem dealing with the water. Everyone got violently ill.  In my case, I threw up in the grocery store into the meat counter. Gross!! However, believe it or not, that was the last time I ever threw up; right up to this day. I've gotten a little 'green about the gills' on occasion (after drinking a bit too much), but never from flying or a ship's motion at sea.'

NAS Kingsville

F9 Cougar Training

F11 Tiger Training

F9F-8T Formation

VT-2 1 used the two seat F9F-8T and the single seat AF9. This is the first swept wing jet we would fly that had been used in the fleet.
The Cougar was built by Grumman and used the Pratt & Whitney J48P8 turbojet engine.

F9 Korean War Fighter

F9 Cougar Fleet Carrier aircraft after Korean War

The F9 Cougar as a Blue Angel aircraft from 1955 through 1957 replacing the straight wing Panther.

The Advanced Jet Training Syllabus- VT-21 (F9 Cougar)

Ground Training:

As with Basic Jet Training, there were a couple of weeks of ground school. We studied the F9 Cougar engine (J48P8), aircraft systems including hydraulics and the oxygen and ejection systems, and emergency procedures. There was the ever present ground simulator for emergency procedures and instrument training . We used an actual cockpit for the blindfold cockpit check.  We completed ejection seat training because it was new ejection seat.  But, we did not have to repeat the altitude chamber. However it seemed like we zipped right through the ground training and got on with the flying.

It was great to finally fly a fleet type aircraft.  The 'Grumman Iron Works' built this beauty with a swept wing. The Pratt & Whitney J48P8engine was much more powerful that the T2's J-34. The wing was very thick at the wing root and was almost stall proof.

Cougar Transition Flight Training:

I began the flight phase of Advanced Jet Flight training in the F9 on September 23rd. I flew 6 dual flights before my first solo flight on October 2nd. I flew a second solo transition flight where I was able to just fly around the training air space over the King Ranch and enjoy some sight seeing. The curve of the white sands of the Padre Island Seashore next to the blue water of the Gulf of Mexico was spectacularly beautiful. The view and the solitude enjoyed by a pilot three miles above the Earth on a beautiful day is an experience only aviators are privileged to enjoy.

Instrument and Night Flight Training:

I began a lengthy phase of instrument training with some night flying  starting  on October 5th and lasting until until my check flight on November 9th (twenty five flights). Most, if not all, of these flights were flown with the student in the front seat, under an instrument hood, and the instructor in the back. Each pilot only had a couple of instructors during this phase to provide continuity for the student and allowed the instructors to compare notes on the student's progress between flights. In my case, my instructors were Lts Gailey and Turpin. I flew my check flight with a different instructor, LCDR Donaldson who probably held some sort of a flight standards position in VT-21.  This process insured that a set of fresh unbiased eyes flew the check flight. It also was a check on the standardization of the instruction. The length and challenging nature of this part of the syllabus demonstrates how critical it is for a carrier jet pilot to be an excellent instrument pilot. It is surprising, but but true, that instrument flying skill is an important indicator of a pilot's ability to be successful in a carrier landing environment, especially at night.

President Johnson's bid for his first term was settled on November 3rd, 1964

(paraphrased from Wikipedia)

Lyndon Johnson defeated the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. Goldwater advocated a "super hawk like" policy toward foreign policy that concerned the majority of Americans. He carried the southern states as he opposed President Johnson's Great Society initiatives. President Johnson won the Electoral College vote by a landslide.

President Johnson's Vice President was Hubert Humphrey,  a Senator from Minnesota. Humphrey, a liberal democrat had co-sponsored Senator Johnson's 1959 Voting Rights Act (the first voting rights act passed by the Congress since the Civil War) when Johnson was Speaker of the Senate Humphrey was the perfect choice to help President Johnson pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and to advocate and help pass a series of anti-poverty programs collectively known as the "Great Society".

(paraphrased from Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson)

President Johnson's political goal was to pass from Congressman to Senator and eventually to President  in order to pass "Voting Acts and the "Great Society" legislation. He told his classmates as much in his junior college class in west Texas (Cato Vol.1). He more than accomplished his goals. He wasn't only a Congressman, he was Speaker of the House with the support of Sam Rayburn (Cato Vol 2).  He wasn't just a Senator, he was Speaker of the Senate with the support of Richard Russell who wanted him to be President (Cato Vol.3). He had the political skill to get his "Great Society" legislation passed by the Congress so that he could sign it into law.

But Lyndon Johnson wasn't prepared to be the Commander in Chief of the US military in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968.  He didn't have the interest or background to make the necessary decisions in geopolitics. He retained JFK's "whizz kids" to make those decisions. The gave him poor advice.

Those of us advanced jet and prop flight training in 1964 would go on to fly A1 Skyraiders (Spads), A4 Skyhawks, and F8 Crusaders from the decks of aircraft carriers on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1965 though 1967. We would pay for those bad decisions; some of us with our lives.

But, we didn't know it at the time. We were too busy learning to fly our advanced training command aircraft in pursuit of our Navy "Wings of Gold" to think about who was President and how that would affect us in our first fleet squadrons in Vietnam.

Note:  Mary mentioned to me one day at Kingsville that it was too bad that I would not get the chance to wear the ribbons that many of our flight instructors had earned in Korea. There were lots of Air Medals, some Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs), fewer Silver Stars, and a very few Navy Crosses for those fighter pilots who were lucky enough to shoot down five or more MIGs.  Little did she or I know what was in store for us!

Cross Country Phase:

I began flying round robin flights on November 9th, the afternoon of the same day as my instrument check flight.  A round robin is a flight which originates from your home airfield, involves high altitude navigation flying using the jet route structure, flying an instrument approach at a strange airfield ( an unfamiliar airfield), and then returning to your home field. All these flight we flown with the student in the front seat and the instructor in the back. I flew most of these flights with Lt Turpin as my instructor.

Mary drove me to the base on Friday, November 13th. I flew my first actual cross country flight starting on from Kingsville to Denver with Lt. Turpin as my instructor. We landed and after refueling,flew to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. This was a spectacular flight on a mid November Friday about noon. First of all, there was a severe cross wind at Denver. The act of refueling at a strange base was part of the training. Navy pilots are expected to to be knowledgeable about refueling and turnaround procedures at a strange base. Then, the takeoff weather conditions at Denver were beyond Air Force limits. But, Lt. Turpin held a Navy special instrument rating which permitted him to authorize us to take off which we did with me in the front seat and him in the back. What a confidence booster. The landing conditions at Fairchild were awful. We were in actual IFR conditions
(in the clouds) the whole time. I wasn't under the hood for this one. I flew a TACAN instrument approach with a GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) in actual IFR conditions breaking out at about 500 feet with snow everywhere.  The ground was covered with about a foot of snow.  The only way I could see the runway or taxiway was because the lights were visible through the snow. It was pretty dark even though it was only mid afternoon. We landed on centerline and our trusty Tf9-FT came to a rapid stop without braking due to the snow. A standard dark blue Air Force 'follow me' truck came out to the runway, picked us up, and took us the base operations (base ops) where we were met by Lt Turpin's wife. We waited for a tow truck to bring our F9 back to a hangar so that we could arrange for refueling and turnaround checks to be accomplished over the weekend.

Lt. Tirpin drove the family car from Fairchild AFB in Spokane to Bovill, a small town in western Idaho south of Couer d' Alene.

It was dusk when we arrived. There were deer and elk visable in the meadows and school yard even though the elk hunting season was scheduled to start at first light on the next day, Saturday morning. I stayed at the Turpin home. By the way, I did not observe any marital problems with the Turpins. Being separated from your family is part of being a Navy carrier pilot especially during sea duty. In this case, it was shore duty, but I suppose Mrs. Turpin choose to live in beautiful western Idaho rather then hot and dusty eastern Texas. I expect that Lt. Turpin took every opportunity to fly to Idaho on one of these instrument cross county flights about every month or so. We got up early the next morning and joined the crowd on the first day of elk season. I did not carry a gun. But, I enjoyed the hiking in the beautiful western Idaho Rocky Mountains. There was not an elk to be seen. The deer were still around but the elk were gone. No one shot a deer on the opening day of Elk season. The deer seemed to know that. Our hunting party (Lt. Turpin's 'home boys'') was successful though.  After many hours, someone in our group shot a large cow elk.  The elk was field dressed and the fur and meat was hiked out by the party (not me). We had elk tenderloin that night for dinner. It was my first time eating elk.The tenderloin was very good. .
We got up the next morning, Sunday, November 15th, and drove to Fairchild AFB. The weather was clear. Most of the snow was gone. We started up our trusty F9 with no problem and flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The jet stream from the west helped a bit (at least it wasn't a head wind).  We landed in VFR conditions late in the afternoon. We turned around and returned to Kingsville that night (I logged 1.8 hours of night time). Mary and Heather picked me up. After a good nights rest, I was back at it the next morning.  What an experience.

Formation and Gunnery Phases:

I began formation flying the next morning. I was assigned a single seat Af9 Cougar for the first time. Not only, was my first formation flight in advanced jet training a solo flight, but it was a flight of four. I think that the section leader was probably an instructor. I don't remember, but it seems reasonable. The formation phase consisted of eight flights before we started flying gunnery pattern flights. These were four plane formation flights also to and from the gunnery pattern.  Some of these flights were dual, some solo. Having an instructor onboard was a great help in relearning the four plane gunnery pattern.  I'm sure that the instructors were also evaluating not only our gunnery pattern technique but also the quality of our formation flying skill. This was sort of a pre-graduation check because the next phase was the carrier qualification.

Carrier Qualification:

I began advanced jet carrier qualification on December 1st.  The FCLP (Field Carrier Landing Practice) phase consisted of 10 flights (60 FCLP landings).  All of the flights were solo, all in the TF9-8T. On the 10th flight I did 5 FCLPs and then headed out to the USS Lexington (CV-16T) for my second round of carrier landings on the Lex.

I flew out to the USS Lexington (CVT-16) in TF9-8T # 142965 on
December 12th 1964

completed 2 Touch and Go and 5 carrier arrested landings  and flew back to  NAS Kingsville.

I was day carrier qualified for the second time!

I  flew 10 more flights after CQ (carrier qualification) before completing the syllabus. Most of them were solo flights in the AF9. I suspect that was because the squadron had to adjust the syllabus somewhat to fit in with the Lexington's availability to be in the western Gulf of Mexico for CQ.
I had a total of 123.3 hours in the F9 Cougar (7.1 in September, 31.3 in October, 52.1 in November, and 32.8 in December).
I had a short break for a week to enjoy Christmas and then flew my final flight with VT-21 on December 30th,1964 just in time for a the new Year!

I had decided after contacts with my instructors at VT-21, that my first choice for a navy squadron with light attack flying the A4 Skyhawk.

Advanced Advanced Jet Training in the F11F Tiger in VT-23


The Navy had an additional phase of training in the supersonic single seat F11F Tiger aircraft.  The engine for the F11F was a Wright J-65 turbojet engine with an afterburner. Like the F9 Cougar, the F11F aircraft was used in the fleet as well as flown by the Blue Angels. This was incredible training; 22 flights, all solo (single seat) flying air combat maneuvering and live air to air gunnery flights.

The F11F was flown in the fleet from 1957 through 1961 when it was replaced by the
F8 Crusader and the F4 Phantom

The F11F was flown by the Blue Angels from 1957 through 1968. It was replaced by the F4 Phantom when the F11F was withdrawn from service.

The F11F had a bottle shaped fuselage in an effort to reduce induced drag. The afterburner nozzles were powered by engine oil. As a result, if there was an oil leak in the nozzles, it unfortunately often resulted in a total engine oil failure requiring a stuck throttle landing approach. It was not uncommon for a student to experience such a failure during the 22 flight syllabus.  The F11F had two 20 mm cannons for air to air gunnery. On one occasion, an F11F shot itself down when firing its 20mm cannons at a high airspeed. The 20mm rounds slowed down quickly allowing the aircraft to fly into it's own rounds.

I checked into VT-23 on January 2nd.  Heather''s first birthday was January 3rd. I flew my first F11F flight on January 8th.

My VT-23 F11F Tiger Flight Syllabus

I flew my first flight in the F11F seven days after checking into the squadron. The ground portion of the training lasted less than a week. It consisted in reading the flight handbook (there was no NATOPS in 1965) and a couple of days of classes and a blindfold cockpit check. My first flight on January 8th consisted of a four plane formation flight (one instructor) and three students I think. There might have been an instructor as the section lead. But, it was a big deal to have your first flight in an aircraft being your first afterburner takeoff as a solo in a flight of four (division). I completed my 22 flights in air to air combat and live air to air gunnery on February 2nd. (25.2 F11F flight hours)

 I received my Navy Wings
 on February 5th, 1965

A recently promoted Ltjg Smith received my wings on February 5th, 1965

I put on the wings that whomever left them for me in that VT-1 flight suit gave me!

I really enjoyed flying the supersonic F11F.  It made me question my earlier decision to go for the A4 and the light attack mission. I knew that I would really enjoy flying the F8 Crusader. But, I stayed with the A4 on the east coast  as my first choice and was happy when I received orders to VA-44 (Fleet Repalacement Squadron Forty Four) (AKA The Rag) in Jacksonville, Florida.

Navy Advanced Jet Training Today

The Navy no longer uses the F9 Cougar or F-11 Tiger aircraft in Advanced jet training.  The F-11supersonic portion of the syllabus was discontinued in the late 1960s and the F9 Cougar was replaced by the Douglas A4 Skyhawk in the 1970s.  The Skyhawks were later replaced the McDonnell DouglasT-45 Goshawk.

The McDonnell DouglasT-45 Goshawk is currently in use in the Navy's Advanced Jet Training

After a naval aviator got his wings, it was standard procedure to send him to school enroute to his next duty station. In my case, I was sent to Aircraft Maintenance Officers School in Memphis, Tennessee. Mary and Heather flew to Duxbury to spend time with her family while I was going through the training at Memphis. A Marine officer friend and I drove his Pontiac (with his dog) with my trusty VW Bug in tow.

Website Created by Robert S. "Bo" Smith
Photos unless otherwise attributed are from Google