Full circle:Radials to Jets and back



I wrote about returning to NAS Pensacola and the National Museum of Naval Aviation a couple of years ago. Much had changed, and much had not. Planes, people; even the base had changed after a hurricane smashed into it. But the feel of the area will always be the same for my wife Laura and I. It is where we and many other youngsters started a great adventure; Sean McDonald remains one of our closest friends in our continuing adventure.

We started together in class 8402, in January of 1983. 8402 was an Advanced Strike class; JETS! While Laura and I settled into the life of newlyweds, Sean and I settled into the turbulent skies as Student Naval Aviators. During the week we roamed the airspace over the beaches; on weekends their many distractions. Sean was our personal guide, he had grown up in Gulf Shores. We quickly fell in love with the area.

After receiving our wings at the Naval Aviation Museum, we got our orders. Sean, being a Marine, was headed to the AV-8A Harrier and I was ordered to the EA-3D Skywarrior. Fellow Aviators gasped, Laura cried; the survival rate on both aircraft was less than optimal.  The Harrier’s nickname was Scarrier for its propensity to dead bug and A-3D was joked to mean all three dead (the Skywarrior had no ejection seats for the 3-man crew). We observed that we apparently were not well liked! After bouncing around a bit I finally ended up on the USS Midway flying the EA-6B Prowler. Sean transitioned to the AV-8B; a much safer aircraft. We both survived as a bonus.


EA-6B Prowler

av 8a

AV-8A Harrier

Our paths crossed many times: San Diego, Whidbey Island, Kingsville, Memphis, Cubi Point in the Philippines, and a crazy cross country drive with my brother Gregg. Laura shaking her head at most of our antics of youth.

It had started for me in the mighty T-28B Trojan; a throw back to WWII. The aircraft were older than the pilots; round engines powered by pistons made it the most macho trainer in the Navy.

t-28 over beach


I learned to fly the T-28 over the beaches in South Texas, out of NAS Corpus Christi. It was quite an aircraft to learn to fly on; but we didn’t know any different. I returned to those roots this week; appropriately with Laura and Sean. He took us up in his Waco bi-plane and we flew low and slow over the same beaches we used to streak over in T-2C and TA-4J Jets.



Below is Fort Morgan from Sean’s Waco, somewhere I have the same photo from a TA-4J Skyhawk.


After our careers in the military we both traded fighters for wide body airliners. Now we are returning to our roots; I’m looking for a round engine aircraft as well. Next year we will roam the skies together again in formation…..low and slow, but with a much better view.


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I haven’t been writing articles for a while so I could devote my time to finishing: CODE NAME Infamy. The initial manuscript is with my publisher for edit.

I hope to have it out in the next six weeks. I hope the wait will be worth it to my readers.



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Multi-Tasking and the Fighter Pilot


I was watching one of the morning news shows today, a Professor of Psychology was talking about his new book (The Organized Mind ). While he was discussing it he made the following statement:

The brain doesn’t multi-task, it processes sequentially…

I laughed out loud; obviously he doesn’t know anything about fighter pilots. Each engagement, whether a training mission or actual combat is one massive multi-tasking event.

The fighter pilot must fly the aircraft at the edge of its envelope while simultaneously:

  • -Talk on two radios (and inter-com if a two seater).
  • -Maintain aircraft position in relation to his wing-man.
  • -Fight the enemy.
  • -Evaluate weapons perimeters of his aircraft and the enemies.
  • -Operate radar.
  • -Respond to aural warnings from electronics and wing-men as well as controllers.
  • -Evaluate the “big picture” as it continually evolves.
  • -Respond to visual threats.
  • -Keep the aircraft at an airspeed and altitude that allows it to fight.
  • -Project where the fight/threat will be in near and far term.
  • -Put his weapons on the target on time.
  • -And the hard part; egress without being shot down.

The above video is a division of F-16s engaged against Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) in Iraq circa 1991. Two of the four aircraft were shot down. The heads Up Display (HUD) footage is from one of the aircraft that made it out. He dodged six SAMs. Notice how the aircraft never stops maneuvering; even when all the multi-tasking is occurring.

Below is a video with com of a Greek F-16 engaging (ironically) a Turkish F-16. I picked it so that the communication (which is sub-titled) can be easily understood. In it you can clearly see how the lead pilot, while engaged in a dog fight, was controlling his wing-man and giving direction for the big picture and egress. Again while engaged in a high g dog fight.

The brain doesn’t multi-task? Sorry Professor Levitin, I call bull sh*t!

In my books I write about multi-tasking: the long and short of it is; if a pilot can not multi-task, he/she will not be around very long especially in combat.






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Amazon count down deals! Vengeance and Endgame for a deep discount!

The Amazon count down deal is on for Vengeance and Endgame, get a deeply discounted copy now.


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Example of why, it is so hard to trust mainstream media

f18 prowler


I suppose it is the same for any profession; you read or watch what the main stream press writes about your area of expertise and just roll your eyes. Sometimes it is so bad you just have to laugh. The above photo and caption came from the New York Times front page today. First; no it is not an F/A-18C Hornet. Not even close; it is an EA-6B Prowler. The on-line article has now been changed to “an American jet”. Amazing; the New York Times has no one that can identify a carrier based jet (EA-6B Prowler) that has been in continuous operation since the mid seventies. They just gave up; “an American jet”. What a forward leaning research department (insert sarcastic roll of eyes here).

Granted I have flown both aircraft so I had a rather large advantage; but come on, the EA-6B is a four man Electronic Warfare jet. The Hornet (Same airplane the Blue Angels fly BTW) is a small single seat Fighter/Attack aircraft. I did a simple search (air wing uss bush), CAG 8 popped right up, as well as a picture of an EA-6B Prowler further down the page. I clicked on the Carrier Air Wing Eight link, a list of squadrons and their aircraft is very apparent. A second click on the F/A-18 would quickly clue in anyone that the picture was not a Hornet. Moving down the list with in two more clicks you would find a picture of the EA-6B Prowler. How easy is that, total time less than two minutes.

Here is a picture of an F/A-18 Hornet:



Here is an EA-6B Prowler:


Does it really matter? I would submit it does, because if you can’t get the easy details correct, how can we possibly trust the rest of the story? And if this is an example of the research ability of The New York Times; can you trust anything they print?


BTW: The aircraft in the NYT picture; on deck, left in frame, is a Hornet.

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USS Utah, WWII Memorial at Pearl Harbor

In my books about WWII I’ve tried to write about smaller units and out of the way battles. Those that were just as important and horrific, but got little press or historic attention: The Hump, Aleutian Campaign, Escort Carriers, Cargo Units. While often delegated to the second string in the eyes of the press and history; the men and women who fought were no less at risk and often paid the ultimate price.

The USS Utah Memorial is like that; the Arizona Memorial over shadows it; but to the families of those it represents it is just as moving, just as important. Above is the story of one young man lost on that day; and the family he left behind.



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WWII’s USS Arizona Memorial accepts more of her crew


After hours at the USS Arizona Memorial,  crew members that survived the sinking,  join their former ship mates. A reminder of the cost paid all those years ago.

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White Flags over the Brooklyn Bridge



White American Flags fly over New York City.

The symbology is so obvious; the operation, professional, clean and executed perfectly. The location; where it all started (for most Americans). A terrorist flag? A Russian flag? No; an American Flag bleached white. The fact the press hasn’t even picked up a sniff on this doesn’t surprise me at all, why? Because there are very few veterans in the press. And I suspect the few Vets that are in the Press Corps are smiling quietly, knowingly.

My son (an Iraq War Vet) and I were listening to the news when this story broke. We both laughed out loud when the question was asked: “Who would do this?”. We simultaneously replied: “Veterans!”.

Veterans? Yes and I will tell you why.

First the symbology; a white flag of surrender. But not a plain white flag; the team took the time to bleach out the American Flags and re-hoist them. America surrendering. This required equipment (bleach/water and a container) to be transported to the top of two bridge turrets. Next the operation; the team easily defeated security not once but twice, the lights were blocked out by a simple and effective means. Tin foil trays, like off of a steam table on a buffet, were bent around the light fixtures. The colors were struck, bleached and re-hoisted. Rinse, (literally) and repeat. The fact that the trays fit perfectly and the OP went smooth means that most likely there was a RECON mission first. OPLAN, RECON, INSERTION, ACTION and EXFIL; seamless execution. Vets; maybe even “special” ones IMO.

Why? Because America has surrendered in the eyes of many Veterans; especially those who served in the WAR on terrorism. My son was wounded while fighting with the 10th Mountain Division in the Sunni Triangle. They defeated Al Qaeda, and now that part of Iraq has been given away to a group even worse, ISIS. Afghanistan is next. Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, sub Sahara Africa; the world is in absolute chaos. Veterans as a group take exception to spilling their blood on bullshit causes. We do what we are told; stand for the Constitution first, however we will take exception when it is all for naught. When it is bungled away by incompetence or worse, lack of “give a shit”.

So yes, we are irritated: you are either in or out. You can not go half ass when lives are on the line. We will go, we will fight; but don’t make the loss and sacrifice for nothing. Don’t make it worse than it was.

But the real reason we are irritated? Because we know the world; the real world. We know the evil that is out there and we know weakness, surrender, invites it to our shores again. We are in a WAR; just because we choose to give up doesn’t mean the other side will.


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The Boeing 787 is an impressive machine. This airshow prep shows the performance of the aircraft, obviously light loaded. Still it looks fun!



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APOLLO 11; the first man on the moon was a Naval Aviator

It’s been 45 years; but I still vividly remember watching Apollo 11 land on the moon as a little boy. My family watched on a small black and white TV. When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface I didn’t know he had started as a Naval Aviator and Test Pilot. Heady days for sure. They seem so far away now. Back then it seemed Americans could do anything; now we can’t even run the Veterans Administration and NASA is on life support.

I already wanted to be a pilot by then. My uncle Bob Millhaem was flying combat missions as a 71st Special Operations Squadron Pilot in the AC-119 in South East Asia. Crew 11. Bob’s tour lasted for a year.

My Uncle Larry Menzies had returned from his combat tour and was tragically killed in S2F-1 Tracker during a training mission. He had been a Naval Aviator, a Tail Hooker, that was the route I took. Larry had flown EA-1Es in Viet Nam (VAW-11) before joining the reserves in 1966. In the video above an S2F-1 is on the bow of the USS Hornet when the Apollo 11 crew lands. Below is  super 8 video from one of his ships, the USS Kearsarge, and the S2f-1.

Here is the EA-1E Skyraider operating off one of my old ships the USS America. Check out how short the groove length is on the landing.

While Apoll 11 influenced just about every little boy in 1969; my course was set. It had been my uncles who influenced me.


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