Falcon's Cry: A Desert Storm Memoir

By Denise Donnelly; Michael Donnelly | Go to book overview

Velocity and Vector

August 1983

Tucson was the training base where anyone in the Air Force slated to fly the A-10 Warthog goes for an initial four-month course. There are no two-seat A-10s, so the very first time a pilot gets in one and takes off, it is solo all the way. Trial by fire. That first flight, when I lifted off the ground, raised the gear handle and the flaps, and looked down at the desert below, I thought, man, this is it. I have made it.

Pilots talk about situational awareness, and this is probably the hardest thing to teach someone, because a pilot must be born with it. Either you have it or you don't. SA is an intuitive awareness of where you are and what's happening around you.

A pilot receives many inputs when flying--visual inputs, seat-of-the pants inputs you pick up from the aircraft movement, audio inputs from radio transmissions--and they all come together to create for the pilot an awareness of the environment. Pilots with good situational awareness tend to excel in flying, especially flying fighter jets. I learned in Tucson that I was blessed with superb situational awareness, even for a fledgling fighter pilot.

It all felt natural to me. I was top gun in my class and a distinguished graduate from the program. An ace fighter pilot in the making. I had never been happier in my life because I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was meant to do. I couldn't believe they were paying me money to fly these jets, to test myself against the forces of air and altitude.

From Tucson, we were sent to Alexandria, Louisiana, a foreign country for Susan and me. It was the land that time may have forgotten but the Air Force still remembered often enough to station young pilots there. We went to England Air Force Base, where I joined the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, 75th Tactical Fighter Squadron, a unit with roots in the American Volunteer Group that flew the P-40 in China during World War II. I was familiar with the P-40 because I used to assemble models of it when I was a kid, paint tiger teeth on its nose.

-39-

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Falcon's Cry: A Desert Storm Memoir
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I Air Warrior 1
  • Needle, Ball and Air Speed 3
  • Part II The Widening Gyre 13
  • The Apple Wars 15
  • Wild Blue Yonder 23
  • Velocity and Vector 39
  • Part III Victory Takes Wings 53
  • Lines in the Sand 55
  • Peaceday, Warday 67
  • Crossing the Fence 81
  • Crud 101
  • How Do You Spell Victory? 111
  • Part IV The Wings of Icarus 123
  • No Joy 127
  • Solo 137
  • Bogeys 147
  • Near Miss 156
  • Lost Wingman 170
  • Homecoming 184
  • A Full 360 204
  • Bandits, Twelve O'Clock 220
  • Part V Fallen Angels 231
  • Nordo 235
  • Epilogue 243
  • A Fighter Pilot's Glossary of Terms 245
  • Congressional Report-- House of Representatives 249
  • About the Authors 253
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