I’ve been flying for the Air Force for about nine years now, and sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective. Believe it or not, it is possible to momentarily lose sight of what an amazing job I have that allows me to get airborne in a high performance fighter and practice killing bad guys. I’m ashamed to say that sometimes it might even seem tedious. Occasionally I will have a conversation with a fellow aviation lover who has never had the opportunity to “slip the surly bonds of earth” and take to the sky in a modern-day warbird. I am reminded in these conversations how fortunate I am, and how important my job is.
I had one such conversation recently with a good friend of mine; a computer guru from the Deep South. “Airwolf” Wallace is a loyal patriot who loves his country and supports the military. He sent me a story, which I would like to share with the Tally One Community. This story helped me refocus my perspective and realize what a lucky guy I am. Thanks for the story Airwolf!
Back in the late 1980’s, I was a member of a Computer Club in Macon, GA. We had the honor of having a number of members from the Warner Robin’s Air Force Base. They could not come to all the monthly meetings; they were busy doing what they did best.
I was always a big flight buff and I was thrilled when one of the guys from the Air Force told us at one of the monthly meetings that Spectrum Holobyte was releasing a simulator for the PC – “F16 Fighting Falcon.” He went on to tell us that it was the same software company that made the sims some of their rookie pilots were required to fly in the Air Force. Well, I was mesmerized. I think every member of the club bought a copy of it.
I was a little different – I lived and breathed it. Spent some big bucks for one of the flight sticks from Thrustmaster that claimed to be built like the real stick. Damn I was good, I was really good at it. Soon, we were told that they were having a contest at the base, with 25 real pilots, flying the Spectrum Holobyte Simulator for a big prize. The prize was a simulator chair that could hook up to most of the flight sims that were out for the PC, including F16 Fighting Falcon.
Well, everyone in the club signed up. I was the civilian hot dog, dubbed “Airwolf.” And the Air Force members of the club knew I was good.
We got our cute badges and went on base. They had a big room set up for the contest, kinda looked like a basketball court. However, in place of the goals were two chairs facing each other for the contest.
Most of our guys got knocked off pretty quickly. I, however, held my own. I could do the yo-yo’s, the scissors, and all that stuff. I could splash another Falcon so quickly it even made me quench. One by one, the Air Force guys got knocked off by Airwolf.
Never one time did any off them get cocky or rude, they simply congratulated me and took their seat amongst the others that had bought the farm. It came down to myself and another guy who flew F15s.
The dog was out and he came flying out of the cage like a bat outta hell, he was good, but I was damned better…at the simulator at least.
Sweat pouring off our knuckles, he could not get me off his 6. No, I stuck there like white on rice.
Over 20 minutes of nail biting air porn. Inside and outside turns, so tight I could never get a lock, but I could pepper him like a steak, he was smoking after about 15 mins. He did a fly by with his burners on, that was a mistake. I responded with a barrel roll that should bring me up behind him, far away enough for a heat lock on his smoking behind.
Unfortunately, I could not pull out of it in time and crashed into a mountain. Miscalculated my altitude as “Bitching Betty” screamed at me all the way to the farm. Sim over.
We shook hands and laughed about how sweaty our hands were. I took my 2nd place prize (a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator) and left the hangar not really feeling bad at all. I played and played that Falcon Sim like it was the only thing that existed on the planet.
Then the Iraq war came about in the early 1990’s. When I heard about the sorties that took off that night, I rushed home to get in the seat with the guys over seas. “Hell Yea!”
I took off and went on a bombing raid, once I got to altitude, something hit my conscience like a SAM: The TV was on and I heard that we had a plane that was missing. I simply reached down and held the power button to my PC and shut the system off – never, ever to play a flight simulator again. Never, ever to fly any simulator that had to do with the Air Force.
It dawned on me that this was not just a game.