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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yes, Perry flew "jets" in the U.S. Air Force

In my pedantic and thoroughly annoying way, I've left comments on a couple of other blogs correcting people who have referred to Texas Gov. Rick Perry as having "flown jets" during his service in the United States Air Force. For example, on a post by my friend Allahpundit at Hot Air, I left a trio of comments which read:

This issue should be addressed exactly as it should have been addressed with Bush: THE MILITARY DOES NOT LET STUPID PEOPLE FLY JETS. PERRY FLEW JETS. THEREFORE, PERRY IS NOT A STUPID PERSON.

wordwarp on August 29, 2011 at 7:57 PM

I’m quibbling, but the C-130s that Perry flew — while noble and essential aircraft! — aren't jets. They have propellers, and they go comparatively low, slow, and everywhere very reliably.

The military doesn't let unqualified people fly propeller aircraft either, so your point isn't affected....

There’s probably an essay to be written, or that’s already been written, or that should be written — maybe by Bill [Whittle]? — about the differences between different sorts of pilots who become politicians.

Dubya flew interceptors; his dad flew carrier-based dive [torpedo] bombers; and McCain also flew carrier-based strike aircraft. None of them did any dog-fighting (although Dubya’s mission would have been to use missiles to shoot down invading Soviet bombers). Nevertheless, my guess — as a fan but a non-pilot who hasn’t ever been in the military — is that they’d all still qualify for the rough, tough, and bluff fraternity of combat pilots.

The guys like Perry who flew (and still fly) the C-130s were, comparatively and metaphorically, flying truck drivers. No less essential, and indeed, a marvel and a necessary component of the long logistical train that our military forces require to accomplish their missions. But a lot less glamorous and sexy....

I have it on good authority[, however,] that this particular C-130 Hercules was not piloted by Rick Perry.

I was reminded of this point today by this post by ArthurK at Ace's, which compares and contrasts Perry's USAF work environment with President Obama's.

But looking at the photos in that post made me wonder if I'd erred in thinking only about Perry's duty as a C-130 pilot. And so I asked a very close friend who's a former USAF instructor pilot with lots of time in lots of different kinds of aircraft; and although my friend and I are a few years younger than Perry, my friend's brother is within a year of Perry's age and was also a USAF pilot, so I think their observations are likely to be well-informed.

My friend assures me that based on the pilot training Perry necessarily would have had in route to his ultimate assignment flying C-130 Hercules cargo planes, Perry "would absolutely have trained in the T-37 and T-38 before being assigned to the C-130 (which, for some real trivia, is a turboprop-powered aircraft, which some consider to qualify as flying a jet; certainly, even though there are propellers on the '130, they're turned by jet engines!)."

The T-37 is a relatively slow and uniquely maneuverable training jet in which, among other things, Perry would have been trained in spin entry and recovery techniques that were too dangerous to try to learn in faster, hotter jets. But the T-38 is the real deal — for all practical purposes, it's a supersonic jet fighter used for advanced pilot training before pilots get their post flight-school assignments. Indeed, rebranded and slightly modified as the F-5, these aircraft are still in use as a fighter in the air forces of many American allies, and T-38s are still flying for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and NASA. Perry's training in the T-38 would have included solo cross-country flights.

And such is the magic of the internet that a search engine query for "Rick Perry T-38" returns this image:

Rick Perry beside his Northrup T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainer

So: I'll no longer be correcting anyone who asserts that Perry "flew jets" in the USAF. He almost certainly did, and did so proficiently, as part of his training before he was assigned to C-130s. And setting aside the "jets versus non-jets" question: Flying big multi-engine aircraft presents a different but no less intimidating set of challenges than flying, say, a T-38 or an F-16. Perry can be justifiably proud of his service flying C-130s, and it is indeed fair to highlight that service as a credential now — not because he would need to pilot aircraft as POTUS, but because he'd need to command their pilots.


UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 8:25 a.m.): Thanks for the link, Prof. Reynolds. There have been many good comments already, one of which has prompted me to make a correction above regarding the sort of plane Bush-41 flew in WW2. Others point out that C-130s are used as amazingly potent gun platforms in the AC-130 "Spooky" variant, and that C-130s also fly direct combat support roles. That's not to say that Gov. Perry in particular did either of those things, but other Air Force C-130 pilots have and continue to do so today.


UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 4:45 p.m.): This post has continued to draw some well-informed and interesting comments. I commend them to your attention.

My pilot friend has now read this post and some of its comments, and he shared these further thoughts with me by email, beginning with this:

One [commenter] stated that the 707 is "not completely stable" because Tex Johnson was able to roll it. [But t]he 707 is quite stable, I can assure you from extensive personal experience (hey, it survived ME!). [After his duty as a T-37 instructor pilot, my friend spent a whole lot of time flying KC-135s, the tanker version of the Boeing 707.] The ability to do a barrel roll or other aerobatic maneuvers does not in any way imply instability in an aircraft, and any "stable" airliner can be rolled (and recovered safely? — that's a different matter). The plane in question was perfectly stable throughout the maneuver. And that IS a very impressive video — I have it on my iPod to show the occasional non-believer when the subject comes up.

On the nature of C-130s, the characteristics of those who end up flying them for the USAF, and what we might infer from the fact that Perry flew them rather than some other aircraft (italics & ellipsis my friend's, PG13-preserving asterisks mine):

I have heard pilots of C-17s, C-141s, C-5s, and even the Shuttle* referred to as "trash haulers," an appellation they embrace with pride, but never have I heard C-130 pilots called that. The Herc did a lot more than just carrying stuff from A to B, it was tasked with a lot of wild and dangerous maneuvering to carry out its mission. It was a true warfighter, at least in the sense that it tended to go where the bullets were flying, unlike most of the other trash haulers and even my beloved Stratotanker! (Sorry, I was channeling Gunny Ermey for a moment.) Anyway, we had the sense to stay outta them dangerous parts of the sky. Plus we were carrying frelling gasoline....

Also, assignments out of UPT weren't automatically based on your class ranking. The ranking got you preference, the top stick getting first choice of available assignments and so on down the list. So the highest-ranked grads tended to get the highly desirable fighter slots, but some preferred other aircraft. I was acquainted with a fellow whose father had flown B-52s, and that's what he wanted to do. High-ranked, fighter-qual, but he wanted a BUF and got it.

(And it's BUF, not BUFF. The cleaned-up version of "Big Ugly Fat Fellow" doesn't fit, as the B-52 is quite slender (try walking through one sometime and see if the word "fat" comes to mind). "Big Ugly F**ker" it is and always was, and its crews are rightly quite proud of that designation.)

There were some variations on the assignment selections, and the process may have been quite different during Vietnam, I don't know. Likewise during the recent and ongoing mid-east dustups.

During my brother's time [as a USAF pilot], he described the process as though the assignments were laid out on a table, and #1 was called and he went up and took his choice. Then #2 went up and chose from what was left, and so on until there was only one pilot and one assignment remaining. Dunno how accurate that is. [But my friend's older brother is almost exactly Perry's same age, whereas my friend and I were a few years younger.]

During my time, we all turned in a form (there's always a form) listing our first five choices of assignment. The oracles at Randolph AFB (ATC HQ) consulted their Ouija boards, Tarot cards, crystal balls and goat entrails, and handed down the assignments from on high, presumably weighted by class ranking and other factors (like notes from flight commanders — in my case, it was specified by that fellow that I was to be assigned to the T-37, which I was). Number One in my class wanted and expected an F-15 assignment, something he made clear from Day One. He got an F-16 (and did not take the news well, comporting himself quite unprofessionally in front of the class, wing brass, and wives and families present at Assignment Night), so that first-position-first-choice thing isn't universal.

Oh, and as I recall, the term First-Assignment Instructor Pilot, referred to by one or two of your commenters, wasn't usually pronounced "FAIP," but by the more common variation, "Goddamned FAIP." Similarly, even though I have lived in Albuquerque for 23 years now, I'm still a Damn Texan.

His footnote about the late, great Shuttle:

(*It was a friend of mine at the lovely and delightful Altus AFB, a C-141 instructor, who said to me (with pride in his voice), "Stands to reason the first reusable spacecraft would be a trash hauler!")

And a final post-script:

PS — I liked that photo of Perry on the T-38. Very unique. Doesn't look a thing like this one of me. For one thing, I knew better than to wear a flight cap on the flight line! Maybe he IS stupid after all.

Accompanying that post-script was this photo of my friend, circa 1981ish I think:

Beldar's friend & correspondent on the cockpit ladder of his Northrup T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainer
Note that my friend's helmet bears a noble insignia that pilot Perry's helmet emphatically did not. It was my memory of this photo of my friend, and of a very, very similar one of my friend's older brother, that prompted me to expect to find, somewhere on the internet, exactly the photo of Perry with his T-38 that I reprinted earlier in this post.


UPDATE (Wed Aug 31 @ 5:45 p.m.): Further, and much more detailed, analysis of the photo of pilot Perry and his T-38 appears here.

Posted by Beldar at 08:14 PM in 2012 Election, History, Politics (2011) | Permalink


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(1) Greg Q made the following comment | Aug 30, 2011 9:01:30 PM | Permalink

Perry was a "trash hauler". Which is to say, it wasn't a member of the fighter mafia, he did an important job, and, I assume, he did it well (post Vietnam the USAF had a LOT more pilots than they had planes for them to fly. And for the vast majority of pilots, hauling the trash beats flying a desk).

I like a guy who's willing to do a job that isn't glamorous, isn't sexy, but is necessary. Perry's willingness to be that guy makes him a polar opposite of Obama, and that, IMHO, is a good thing.

(2) Phelps made the following comment | Aug 30, 2011 10:56:15 PM | Permalink

So in other words he just flew back and forth, and we all know that takes no brains.

So Perry is as dumb as a space shuttle pilot.

(3) Dafydd the Purveyor of Irrelevant and Trivial Facts made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 2:11:16 AM | Permalink


An interesting side point: Those military pilots who envision eventually flying commercial jumbo jets for the airlines would naturally apply to be assigned to big, multi-engined aircraft, like a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy (four huge TF39 turbofan jet engines).

But those slots disappear fast; and the next best thing to a multi-engined jet is a multi-engine turbo-prop, like the C-130 Hercules workhorse.

It doesn't make a lot of difference (other than thrust) whether you're using jet engines or props; the similarities to commercial jumbo jets -- multiple engines, very long flights, flying straight and level, a very stable aircraft (fighters and attack jets are deliberately made to be unstable, so they can maneuver better; stable planes get petulant if you yank and bank them *), large crew, focus on flight management rather than piloting -- is far greater than the prop vice jet difference.

My guess is that Rick Perry was considering making a career as an airline pilot but eventually decided he wanted to do something more substantial, like going into politics. So he flew the Herc for maybe three and a half years (figuring a year and a half for pre-assignment flight training).

And yes, you are correct: For the first part of flight training, before you get your wings, everybody flies the same aircraft ,first props and then jets. After your wings, that's when you usually specialize in a particular aircraft, a choice often driven by what's open and how high you ranked in your flight-school class. But usually if you want fighter jets, you can have them; it's the multi-engine jets and turboprops that fill up quickly with hopeful, eventual applicants to United or JetBlue.


* On the other hand, when Boeing was trying to sell its 707 to the airline companies, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) invited them all out to Seattle, where Boeing was demonstrating the new jetliner. The test pilot, Tex Johnson, decided to really show them what the plane could do; so he came flying over Lake Washington towards the assembled buyers, engineers, and managers from every major airline company... and he barrel-rolled that 707! So it's not completely stable.

I found this YouTube of the roll. Mighty impressive, even today!

Originally, I got the story from Jerry Pournelle in the 1970s; he gave me to believe he was actually on the scene and watched the roll. That last I cannot verify, though he did indeed work for Boeing around that time, late fifties. (After viewing the YouTube, I corrected a couple of misrememberings, for example that it was IATA, not Boeing, that set up the convention.)

(4) Jack is Back! made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 7:40:08 AM | Permalink

IIRC, Perry has stated either in an interview or in one of his writings that he considered staying with T-38's as an instructor but wanted to see the world and went with the Herc. BTW, even if he flew gliders he would still have to perfect certain forms of meteorology, navigation, avionics, etc. These insinuations that Perry is "dumb" are made because he has an accent that is not brahmin and he attended Texas A&M instead of Havvahd.

(5) azlibertarian made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 7:51:54 AM | Permalink

As a former C-130 pilot (and current airline pilot), my first "real" C-130 flight (after I'd arrived at my squadron) involved picking up a load of Marine cargo, flying it from Okinawa to the Philippines to enter a low-level to an assault landing on a dirt field, unloading that cargo with combat off-load procedures (landing to takeoff--11 minutes), all in the name of 80's-era peacetime training.

I instructed in the T-38 and flew the C-130. It is easy to dismiss the C-130 mission as less challenging than the fighter-type missions. That is a mistake.

(6) pst314 made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 7:58:55 AM | Permalink

Not just "dumb": Some of our oh-so-open-minded liberal friends are calling him an "Air Force Nancy boy" because he flew a transport.

(7) gdb central Texas made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:02:48 AM | Permalink

One small quibble - as someone who has taken off numerous times in a C-130 but never landed, C-130 pilots are often directly involved in direct combat support. Delivering paratroops and low-level equipment drops puts those pilots plenty close to combat. (No need to discuss intelligence needed to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, though!)

(8) Joe Blow made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:06:13 AM | Permalink

"Flying straight and level." Hah! If he ever pulled any duty in Georgia or North Carolina, doing mass airborne troops, he wasn't entirely flying straight & level. This particular piece of trash got hauled frequently to the LZ via nap-of-the-earth flying tactics. Words can't adequately describe the unique pleasure of sitting in the webbing and holding on tight with my pals, watching them vomit down into their T-shirts, as laughing flight crew held onto the bulkheads and occasionally levitated, before they turned on the lights and we stood up and jogged out the back doors. I also recall us taking off on some very short runways to go to LZs, and have seen a variety of cargo extraction methods used with the Hercs including some sketchy drops of heavy metal out the back using some sort of touch & go procedure where the plane barely touches the runway, never stops and drops a truck / artillery / light armor out the back. It struck me as phenomenally dangerous and requiring a lot of skill. Not all trash hauling is equal, I think and it would depend on the duties pulled by the particular pilot...

(9) Marty made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:06:38 AM | Permalink

Time for the next MSM 'Dan Rather' to go digging for some USAF memos.

(10) The Man From K Street made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:09:07 AM | Permalink

Minor quibble: Bush 41's ride (Grumman TBF Avenger) was a carrier-based torpedo bomber, not a dive bomber. Quite a different mission profile and set of flying characteristics. Not that it isn't any less impressive.

(11) Richard made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:09:18 AM | Permalink

As a civvy pilot (who did a bit of helicopter flying in the Royal Navy) I would have to agree that the C-130 pilots are still tough mil pilots (one of my early instructors flew Hercules for the RAF) but are different in character from jet jockeys. In fact for the role of Commander-in-Chief and POTUS they are better.

The Herc is a multi-crew aircraft, co-operation and teamwork is everything. He would have flown in dog fights, as the target (they train to avoid enemy fighters) so he learns to fly on the edge with quick thinking, but he also learns that sometimes the low and slow wins - it is almost impossible for fighters to get the Herc in close combat if the latter is flown with skill. He would also have worked with US Army, probably NATO allies' armies too, so should understand and value the co-operation/competition balance that such forces use to get the best out of their people.

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a superb aircraft, producing superb pilots. Governor Perry has gone up in my estimations.

(12) David Jay made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:12:42 AM | Permalink

Sorry, but anyone who insists that an Allison T56 is not a jet engine has no business pretending to have expertise on aviation related issues.

(13) J made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:18:11 AM | Permalink

Airlines, at least the majors, don't care whether you flew fighters or heavys. They do prefer pilots with a military background, but I believe that has more to do with graduates of a program they're familiar with who have a government certified paper trail for every second of flight time they've ever logged than any assumption that ex-mil are inherently superior to a civilian who is competitive for hire.

Some of the points above may apply under the current Air Force pilot training program, but when Perry went through:

1. To get a fighter assignment you had to be "fighter qualified", i.e., towards the top of the class. I'm a Perry fan and will vote for him if he runs, but if he got assigned to a 130, he was not a top performer in his UPT (undergraduate pilot training) class. "Heavy" slots do not disappear fast; At the time Perry went through, unless you trained at Sheppard AFB (a different, coverted UPT program in which students are essentially guaranteed a fighter assignment), the top 10% of the class got a fighter assignment, the next 10% became "FAIPS" (first assignment instructor pilots), the remaining fighter qualified pilots got attack, FAC, or recon aircraft that require fighter qual, and everybody else got heavies. As a side note, major airlines appear to particularly like FAIPs. Not sure why that is, but every FAIP I know who separated and applied to a major got hired.

2. At the time Perry went to UPT, students did not fly a prop aircraft at any time while in that training program (though they do today). In some cases (the rules have varied over the years) pilot candidates may have been evaluated in the flight screening program, which at the time used Cessna 172s, but that's not part of pilot training.

While Perry may not have been a top performer in pilot training, your point that the USAF doesn't let idiots fly is valid. They also don't let people who can't make a decision without a committee fly, an affliction our current president suffers from.

(14) Dennis made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:18:59 AM | Permalink

We have and have had administrations manned and advised by graduates of Harvard, et al. Obama's is especially dependent on the "Ivies" for guidance. It would seem that if one looks at the results and the disasters these academics have created we would be far better off if we had someone who graduated from anywhere other than Harvard.
If what we see coming out of Washington D.C. is an example of academic excellence we need to question the kind of education its students and graduates are getting. I am beginning to believe that one could pick 5 names out of a rural Texas phone book and find people who would do a better job with the economy and that includes the "illegal" immigrants.
As I remember from flying on C-130s many of them had JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off.) It was the only way they could take off from some airfields/places. I had that thrill coming out of Panay.

(15) J. Pace made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:45:15 AM | Permalink

"Flying truck drivers". Well, Allahpundit just lowered his IQ a few notches. As to the other experts, there was one fighter slot available to my graduating class and a couple of faips (just a few years earlier than Perry). I'd say this was typical during my training year. The rest were heavies/other. A number of us chose the C130 over Buffs, tankers, or other airlift aircraft because the C130 looked like more challenging, interesting flying. After a career of doing it, I think that was true. Much more than "trucking". You know who I'm looking at, Allahpundit. As to the easy peasy idea of airlift flying, we lost over 60 C130s in the Vietnam war error. And no, Allahpundit, we didn't just misplace them.

(16) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:49:39 AM | Permalink

Mr. Jay (#12), thanks for your comment that "anyone who insists that an Allison T56 is not a jet engine has no business pretending to have expertise on aviation related issue."

I described myself above as "a non-pilot who hasn’t ever been in the military." I don't claim any expertise on any aviation related issues, and indeed my main point in this post was to apologize for my own past mistakes in contradicting those who've claimed that Perry "flew jets."

My pilot friend whom I quoted above made exactly the same point about the C-130's engines as you did, if I understood you and him both correctly.

So, if you were fussing at me for my ignorance, we agree. If you were agreeing with my pilot friend, then again, we agree. If you were suggesting that my pilot friend lacks credibility, I think you must have misunderstood, and the fault for that is probably mine too. But I'm just not sure why you're fussin' so vehemently.

(17) Col R made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:59:39 AM | Permalink

A very small technical quibble. The engines on the C-130 are definitely jets but they are tied to an external prop rather than a more modern shrouded fan. Additionally, the resultant overall thrust is augmented by about 15% from the "normal" jet engine thrust out the back of the engine as normal exhaust. The remainder of the thrust is from the prop.

(18) Richard Aubrey made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 9:01:06 AM | Permalink

The Herk was the bird of choice for the IDF's transport into and out of Entebbe. I recall reading that, for purposes of making sure their forces were well-represented, the IAF deliberately got the next guys on the duty roster instead of looking for "picked" pilots.
I also recall that the highest medal for non-combat flying was, some years ago, a Herk flying up an unnamed river in Africa below tree-top level, popping up at the right moment, dropping on a lousy airfield and picking up some European refugees from some war or other. Like to look that up sometime, but it's sort of why various wars see burly, crew-cut guys in Hawaian shirts, khaki pants, low-quarters and white socks. Nope, not us. Nossir.

(19) Mark L made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 9:01:31 AM | Permalink

Another point worth making is that *any* multi-engine aircraft is more complicated than a single-engine aircraft and a 4-engine airplane -- even a turboprop (which has a propeller attached to a jet engine anyway) -- is more complicated than a twin-engine aircraft.

A jet goes faster, but jet engines are actually simpler than turboprops.

(20) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 9:01:31 AM | Permalink

Mr. Pace (#15): You may be misattributing to Allahpundit something that I wrote. Allahpundit's post didn't mention Perry's service as a C-130 pilot, but was on the much broader topic of the Dems' claims that Perry is a dim bulb. Your confusion, though, is my fault, and I've restructured the sentence in my post (just before the blockquote) which I think led you astray, so I hope others won't be similarly misled.

If you follow the links, you can confirm that all the words in the initial block quote in my post above were written by me, except for the double-block-quoted comment by HotAir commenter "wordwrap." In particular, the phrase "flying truck driver" was mine, not his; I intended it respectfully (I respect driving truck drivers and their work, too!), so I urge you not to take that one phrase out of context even if you think it's inapt. Maybe no ground-based metaphor is apt; but I don't think it's inherently disrespectful at all to point out that C-130s are more like trucks than they are like race cars.

(21) MassJim made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 9:01:31 AM | Permalink

Those who criticize Perry for flying "only" a c-130 are a part of the Obamanation who will criticize anyone and anything that represents a threat to their leader. In this case though, Perry's experience as a c-130 pilot certainly doesn't measure up to Obama's bravery and courage when he ventured out as a young man and faced the physical and mental challenges as a ... uh...um...uh, Oh, never mind.

(22) ryan made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 9:14:26 AM | Permalink

ok ok the man admits he made a mistake. Good for you. Yes C130 flying is some of the most dangerous combat flying. Yes the difference between a high bypass turbofan and a turboprop is not much. But the real underlying meme is that the left ALWAYS tries to dismiss republicans as being stupid. In my lifetime they did it with Reagan(old and senile), Bush Sr (out of touch and ignorant), Gingrich(stupid and a hypocrite), Bush Jr(chimp like IQ), Sara Palin (dumber than dirt 'woman'), the tea party (stupid uneducated racist) need I go on. This is page one of their play book. The will next claim that he is dangerously incompetent and shouldn't have the authority to walk across a street without holding an adults hand. (I'm assuming they have already started the "Crazy Religious Fundie" campaign.)

(23) Joan of Argghh! made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 9:29:16 AM | Permalink

Here have we hard evidence of Perry's "dumb" past.

Still waiting for the hard evidence of Obama's brilliant past. MSM? Beuller? Anyone?

(24) crypticguise made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 9:44:23 AM | Permalink

Anyone claiming that Rick Perry isn't smart, intelligent or otherwise is incapable of handling the "chores" of POTUS is just plain IGNORANT. Anyone claiming that flying a C130 is a lesser task than flying a supersonic jet doesn't understand aircraft or the selection process of pilots in the military.

Should Perry become the Republican candidate for President of the United States in the 2012 election most sane Americans will realize that his opponent has already shown that he is incapable of "flying a kite".

We have 2 1/2 years of experience with a LOSER in the White House who has done everything in his Executive power to destroy our economy and our standing in foreign affairs. Enough said.

(25) styrgwillidar made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 10:14:26 AM | Permalink

Yeah, if you fly for the military you do have to demonstrate some intelligence, judgment, and ability to learn.

I was primarily a USN Helicopter pilot. (Did a tour flying LYNX helicopters on exchange in the RN- Hey Richard! You ever in Portland at HMS Osprey?)

Anyway, I earned my Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), multi-engine fixed with ~1800 total hrs only 180 of them in fixed wing. And my check ride brought me to a grand total of 10 hrs multi-engine fixed. Had a civilian instructor with over 500hrs in model who failed the test twice.

Which says a lot about the quality cut and quality of training provided by the military. It's not just about the smarts you bring, it's about the way the military teaches you to think, analyze, and understand both your and the machine's limitations and capabilities.

(26) FB made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 10:47:34 AM | Permalink

Yeah... this will definitely backfire. Most people are impressed by the ability of military pilots, regardless of what kind of plane they flew. The more people know about his Air Force experience, the better it is for Rick Perry.

(27) PersonFromPorlock made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 10:53:33 AM | Permalink

OK, a question: Perry was AD for five years, and probably eighteen months to two years of that was pilot training and type qualification. It takes a while for an entry-level pilot to gain experience and be upgraded to Aircraft Commander, which is the job position that carries the responsibilities people are saying Perry had.

But was he ever an Aircraft Commander or was he still a co-pilot when he separated? The timing's a little tight, although not impossible. There's a big difference between ACs and CPs, even though both are 'pilots'.

(28) Tantor made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 11:03:04 AM | Permalink

The thing is, flying is an unforgiving business and military flying all the more so. If you make a mistake in a C-130, you can die, as one of my classmates from the Air Force Academy did. If you make a mistake as a community organizer, you can just apply to grad school.

There is a cultural difference between aviators and the regular civilian jackass. When you fly, everything about your mission has to be right when the wheels come up in the well. You don't have time to redo things and may not have the gas. In the civilian world, you can pretty much do things over and over until you get it kinda right.

You can see that in Perry, who has made a habit of winning elections by intense preparation and innovation. By contrast, Obama is perfectly willing to take off with gargantuan programs that are untested, unwieldy, and doomed to fail.

(29) Bill Woods made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 11:03:33 AM | Permalink

"UPDATE (Wed Sep 31 @ 8:25 a.m.): ..."

Unless you've got some very fancy blogging software, this was actually posted on *August* 31.

(30) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 11:06:45 AM | Permalink

Sigh ... Mr. Woods (#29), thanks. I've done that before. For some reason my mind has been in September for fully two weeks already now. Duly corrected above.

(31) Arch made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 11:17:48 AM | Permalink

The way USAF pilots and navigators were assigned weapons systems in the 60s early 70s was based upon class standing. All that was was where you checked out in that aircraft. Guard and Reserve pilots flew what their unit had. Bush was in an F102 guard unit, so that's what he flew. Most air defense jets are flown by guard and reserve units.

Active duty USAF pilots were lined up from the top of the class to the bottom. Fighters usually went first. If there were three F4s, one to Homestead AFB FL and two to George AFB in Victorville, CA, the top guy took Homestead. Surprisingly, C130s were next. Guys who wanted to fly for American took C141s. The next group were the first assignment instructor pilots (a 4 letter word, FAIP) took T38 then T37s. On the bottom of the list were the Strategic Air Command aircraft, KC135s and B52s.

C130 pilots have some very challenging missions such as the brigade airdrop, airfield assault, formation flying in the weather, combat resupply. There are also non-cargo Hercules configurations such as gunships, electronic warfare, hurricane hunter, drone launch & control. Who could forget the 30,000 pound mother of all bombs. IMHO, the Herk is a pretty Sierra Hotel bird.

(32) Tommy K made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 11:31:02 AM | Permalink

As we tell multi-engine students, "you got 4x the opportunity for something to go wrong"

(33) bobbymike made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 11:42:20 AM | Permalink

The big picture point is how the opposition in whatever form tries to discredit Republicans.

When a Democrat has no military background, Clinton, the media say it does not matter. BUT when they have some military background, Gore/Kerry, no matter how middling, it is played up like they were standing next to Eisenhower at the Normandy landings.

For Republicans it is the exact opposite. If you have no military experience you are a "chicken hawk" or if you have a credible military background then it is, "Oh its a transport big deal, it wasn't a JET!"

I'm waiting for someone like Petraeus to run and see how long it take the meme to become, "He's a dangerous militarist."

About five minutes.

(34) Diggs made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 12:49:51 PM | Permalink

Anyone who has flown from Baghdad to Ali Asaleem on a C130 knows that they don't always fly level and steady.

(35) Capt Caveman made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 1:32:06 PM | Permalink

If you want try something that makes the meanest roller coaster ride look like a drive in the country, do a night combat insertion in an MC-130 Combat Talon. When I did it in the good old days the pilots did not have night vision capability but they would fly through mountain passes with the engines firewalled and barely clearing. As a good infantry type fighter jets don't impress me, C-130 and A-10 pilots do.

(36) Irv Greenberg made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 2:07:07 PM | Permalink

Perry, in training, flew approximately 90 hours in the T-37, which had very similar performance to the P-51 of WWII. It will do about 450 mph and is fully aerobatic and was routinely used to teach not only spins but also accelerated and inverted spins. As a student he flew around 30 hours solo in the aircraft.
Also, in training, he flew the T-38 for approximately 120 hours, about 30 of which were solo. The T-38 is supersonic (1.24 mach) and terribly unforgiving of any inattention or lack of planning. It held the world's time-to-climb record for several years and will go from brake release to 30,000 ft. in 89 seconds and has a ceiling of over 50,000 ft. It is fully aerobatic and students were required proficiency in both 2-ship and 4-ship formation and even supersonic formation.
I'll leave it to a C-130 instructor to comment on it but in my day we always referred to it as the world's only fully aerobatic cargo plane because it had so much power and handled so well. The aircraft is so good that we are still ordering new versions of it today; pretty amazing for an aircraft design close to 50 years old.
In pilot training Perry worked 5 and often 6 days a week and every day was scheduled to be 12 hours on duty and he had to do his studying after that. Basic pilot training was 53 weeks of this grueling schedule.

(37) Donald Sensing made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 2:35:09 PM | Permalink

I am a retired Army officer with no little experience in C-130s, mostly at Fort Bragg. As others have already pointed out, C-130 pilots who support Army operations there (and elsewhere) are not "bus driving." Their flying skills have to be absolutely top notch.

I posted a video demonstrating exactly why this is so: because when mistakes are made, people die. I was present when this occurred.

(38) Carlos made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 2:58:45 PM | Permalink

I was a Naval Flight Officer, not an Air Force pilot, but I can tell you this much: during Vietnam and the Cold War, there was not the clear division between "guys at the top of the class who got jets" and "guys further down who got helos or multiengine." Au contraire, the guys at the top got their choice (consistent with the "needs of the Navy").

The guys further down, well, got their choice, too, of whatever was left over.

And in my class, and the ones before and after mine that I observed, guys at the top would sometimes choose multiengines (because they wanted to be an airline pilot some day, or just liked the darned things) or helos (because they had weird 6-dimensional brains), and guys near the bottom ended up in hot but dangerous F-4s or RA-5s or A-6s, because that was what was left for them.

The important thing is that he spent his time in the barrel whilst various dodgers and non-hackers lay abed.

(39) John the Revelator made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 3:10:57 PM | Permalink

Um, you are aware that a C-130 is, in fact, a jet engine driven aircraft. It is a turbo prop...a propeller driven by a turbine (aka jet) engine. It is not an internal combustion piston engine but a real, honest to God, jet engine.

(40) Mike made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 4:08:53 PM | Permalink

Ever see a C-130 JATO assisted takeoff? I have many times when stationed in Alaska. Pretty awesome to see four rockets strapped to the side of a C-130 fire off. Not for the squeamish.

(41) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 4:41:29 PM | Permalink

John (#39), before using my bandwidth to lecture me, you need to read my whole post, please. If you had, you'd see that I've covered that very point, as have several of the commenters.

But thanks for flying by at mach 1.4 and 40,000 feet to preach at us unnecessarily for a while.

(42) oleAFguy made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 5:24:15 PM | Permalink

Khe Sanh

(43) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 5:26:31 PM | Permalink

Just noticed one difference between the photo of my friend with his T-38 and the photo of Perry with his: My friend's has a whole lot more by way of warning labels stenciled below the canopy. This probably does not reflect any change in the aircraft, but rather, the influence of those damned lawyers on even military aviation.

(44) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 5:38:16 PM | Permalink

I wonder if Perry requested C-130s so some of his service would be near his home, at Dyess AFB in Abilene.

(45) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 5:41:38 PM | Permalink

Love the Horns.

(46) Dean made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 6:19:58 PM | Permalink

In the early 1960s, when my brother went into the Air Force, he trained in T-37s and T-33s, before flying C-118s (military version of the DC-6). The T-33 was the training version of the old F-80 jet fighter. At that time, I believe, T-38s were used to train those who would remain in jets, but the T-33 was phased out by the Air Force shortly after that. (My brother was several years older than Rick Perry.) So, the Air Force was training transport pilots in jets even before Rick Pery's time in the service.

(47) Mr Disco made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 8:08:10 PM | Permalink

Re comment 42 Ole AF guy, Khe Sanh. God Bless the C130 pilots and crews that kept us supplied. Some of the bravest men I ever saw.

(48) Deborah made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 10:19:31 PM | Permalink

So what airplanes do the Air Force One pilots fly before getting the biggest left seat of them all?

(49) The_Basseteer made the following comment | Aug 31, 2011 11:44:41 PM | Permalink

Taking off on a long runway, ever with JATOs is o.k Here's a YouTube clip of a C-130 taking off and landing on the Aircraft Carrier Forrestal.

(50) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 1, 2011 2:12:09 AM | Permalink

From regular reader & commenter Mike Myers (whose submissions TypePad is rejecting for reasons I can't fathom):


I go back to the constant liberal cant about Republicans who served in the miliary. Bush was a "draft dodger" because he flew in the Texas National Guard (as opposed to Clinton who was--in fact--a draft dodger). The reality is that training to fly high performance military aircraft --or flying them--is dangerous, no matter which bird you fly. Century Series fighters--like Bush's F-102 have an unfortunate-if not frequent---habit of killing their pilots. That's been true since the dawn of military aviation. You only need to look at the training losses in WW II to understand the danger. I've got older friends who were in the Air Force in the 1950's. One of them had an F-94's engines (that's a 1950's jet powered interceptor for you aviation non cognoscenti) flame out on him at the end of the runway on takeoff. He didn't have any choice other than to keep it going straight and ride it into the ground. He still walks with a limp. Another was maintenance officer at Big Springs AFB in Texas in the mid 1950's They were flying T-33 Lockheed (jet) trainers. It was a big training base--and they typically lost 6 jets a month in crashes--many of them fatal.

There are a lot of different ways to die in a high performance airplane. The armchair, never were, know it all desk jockeys in the press ought to be ashamed of themselves. But their sense of shame was removed from them when their mother first cut their 3 year old baby curls.

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