Perry’s Blog

Thoughts and notes from Perry Smith

The Challenges Of A Fighter Pilot—Story Number One

The 555th (Triple Nickel) Fighter Squadron just deployed from its home base in Aviano, Italy to a base in Afghanistan. The pilots will be flying their F-16s on a six-month combat deployment. A full package of maintenance and support personnel will also deploy from Aviano. The squadron commander has asked me to send him lots of flying stories that he will share with those in his unit. I thought...

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Two Flying Stories—Dealing With Emergencies

One of the great challenges of flying fighter aircraft is having responsibility for everyone in your flight. Much of my flying was in formations of two, three or four aircraft. If I was the flight leader and any of the aircraft had an emergency, I had the responsibility to assist. The following is an example. Flying in an air-to-ground exercise over North Carolina, there were three F-100s in my...

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Flying F-4 Fighter Aircraft In Combat

The date was 22 February, 1969. I was flying on the wing of Wayne Pearson. Wayne’s backseater was Mike Heenan. Ron Hintze was, as usual, in my backseat. Wayne rolled in on the target and established a dive angle of about 45 degree (nose down). A few seconds later, my backseater shouted to me on the intercom, “Holy Smoke, Lead is on Fire”. All I could see was a ball of fire and lots of smoke...

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Combat Flying At Night

On a pitch-black night, I rolled my F4 aircraft in on an Anti-Aircraft gun position on the ground. Six positions were shooting in my general direction—I picked out just one to hit. The fiery tracers were flying fast by my canopy—it was the like a Fourth of July fireworks display but it was over central Laos. My quick thought–I am going to get hit for sure. The mission was quite a...

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The Challenges Of Learning How To Fly

It was 107 degrees on a late August day in 1956 at Marana Air Base in Arizona. Flight school for sixty Air Force second lieutenants had begun. On that day I got my “dollar ride” in the back seat of a T-34 trainer aircraft. The air was very bumpy and I quickly got airsick. On landing the instructor pilot was very blunt. “Lieutenant, some folks can learn to fly and some cannot.” He then walked...

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One of the Army’s Best is About to Face His Greatest Challenge

In 1996, I got a call from a friend who is a historian in North Carolina, Dick Kohn. Professor Kohn suggested that I might be able to help a young Army officer who was completing his Ph.D. studies at the University of North Carolina. Kohn was concerned that Major HR McMaster might soon be in big trouble with the senior leadership in the United States Army. McMaster was about to publish a...

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