November 27, 2007
November 27, 2007
The View from Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: After graduating from Liberty High School Josh Sullivan began basic training at the Air Force Academy and immediately fit right in. “Dad taught us a solid work ethic, and I’d started a work-out regimen back in sixth grade which I still do today.” He’s also “a check-list kind of guy, which comes in real handy for a pilot.”
Serving in leadership positions at the Academy, he completed the glider and jump programs. “Gliders were fun because of the challenge of energy management; it teaches you basic aircraft control.” Because there’s no motor, a glider is towed by another plane and once released from the tow rope, the glider pilot uses thermal energy to ride the waves and keep the ship gliding. There’s no “go around” if you think you might botch the landing, so you have to get it right the first time. By his sophomore year he entered the jump program, which he hopes to do more of some day. Earning a private pilot license his senior year in a Diamond DA-20, a 125 horsepower two-place airplane with a stick control, Josh graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Mike: Next came primary flight training at Whiting Naval Air Station, in Milton, Florida, in a T-34, equipped with PT-6 turbo props. “At first you look at all the buttons and gauges and it’s a bit overwhelming,” Josh says. “We learned to compartmentalize, learned the systems and basic knowledge of the airplane in about eight weeks of ground school.” That familiarization completed the first of four phases of primary flight training. Aerobatic, instrument, and formation flight would follow. “They call it the fire hose system because they drown you in it and you guzzle up as much as you can in two years,” he tells us.
Aerobatics was one of his favorite phases of training. “The instructor sat behind so he could smack you in the head if you messed up,” he chuckles. Formation flying is also a favorite, because, says Josh, “It’s like looking in the mirror. You look over there at the other guy and you see how cool it looks. There he is sitting there in his cockpit, flying his airplane, and the whole sight is just so cool. Then it hits you, ‘hey, that’s what I look like.’ I love it, it’s kind of surreal.”
Air Force pilots choose where they want to go after primary training and enter a “pipeline” for advanced training. Josh chose the C-130 as the airplane he would fly for the rest of his Air Force career. “Like all other guys, I love the fighter jets–I flew a Strike Eagle once while in London and I’m the right size and shape to pull the G’s. But I really love the team work involved in a crew plane. So while I love the speed and thrill of flying a fighter, being part of a team is better suited to me.” Josh knew that his type-A personality could lead him down a path he didn’t welcome if he chose a life that individualized him. Putting his faith and family first, flying a crew plane would keep him mentally in the spirit of teamwork and cooperation.
Next week you’ll get more of the story of Josh’s journey. Till then, blue skies.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.