December 4, 2007
December 4, 2007
The View from Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: For the past two weeks we’ve written about Josh Sullivan’s journey in aviation; we’re glad you came back for more.
Training in Corpus Christi in the T44-A, “Pegasus”, a King Air 90, introduced Josh to flying a twin engine airplane. For the next eight months he would refine his skills in ground school and in the air, focusing intently on the fundamentals introduced to him as a private pilot, earning his wings as a commercial, instrument rated pilot. “After four tough weed-out flights, I finally got my wings,” he says of the hard work. Then it was on to Little Rock for a six month initial training in the C-130. “The C-130 is the 4X4 of the Air Force. The oldest models were built in 1962, a real testament to our maintenance crew,” he says.
Now in the 61st Air Lift Squadron, the Green Hornets, Josh continues to hone his skills. The Green Hornets practice air dropping troops, heavy equipment, and supplies out the back of the airplane in a low-level deploy, about 300’ off the ground over the hills of southwest Arkansas. Reading charts, flying low level at night is a challenge; good practice for the combat zone, where Josh already has some experience.
Linda: Four months in Iraq on “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, earned him a few months back in the U.S., but he’s heading back to the Middle East the end of this week. After this deployment he’ll be promoted to Air Craft Commander. Intra-theatre air lift, from the main station out to smaller areas within Iraq, is their main job. They practice formation flying in reduced visibility weather where they can’t see the others in formation. “We have to be able to drop supplies in weather without seeing the ground. When the Army clears a place to land, all we need is a 2,000 feet strip, and it doesn’t even have to be paved. That’s how you learn the performance limitations of the airplane.”
Mike and I love taking airplane with Josh, but suddenly he stops for a moment, raising a finger to indicate a serious break. “But I want to say this: while we get shot at as we’re flying low level, in and out, it’s nothing like those guys in the Army and Marines. They’re the ones down there, bullets whizzing by their heads every day. We carry these guys in the back–the door kickers” he says, pointing as though to the cabin behind his pilot seat, “and we appreciate everything they do. There’s no glory here. Those guys are heroes. And I want that to be said.”
Well said; what a gentleman. There’s still more to tell you from this time we spent with Josh. We’ll see you next week with lots more of the good stuff. Till then, blue skies–and Josh, be safe over there. We’ll see you when you get back.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.